It was a year ago this week that I watched the then new Spanish horror film REC at the Glasgow Film Festival. Jaume Balaguero and Paco Plaza’s film was one of Spain’s highest grossing movies of the last few years, a claustrophobic and adrenalin fuelled shocker that left some indelible images in my mind.
I wrote a few months later about my growing dismay at the rash of Hollywood remakes of Spanish horror films, both REC and The Orphanage getting overhauls for the US market. REC was about to be remade as Quarantine and I noted that it deserved to be treated with care, its ability to chill even the most hardened horror aficionados that night in Glasgow something worth prizing.
Yesterday I felt a new kind of terror run through me when I got home from work: the DVD of Quarantine had arrived in the post. Would it be the travesty I’d feared, a soulless rehash of a minor genre classic? Or would it be better than the original, building on the good parts and giving a new spin to the script?
First things first: the premise is the same. A TV news reporter, Angela (Jennifer Carpenter) and her cameraman Scott (Steve Harris) decide to film the work of an LA fire crew, watching them at rest and on call.
As the evening goes on, the alarm goes off and the crew are sent to a tenement block where an old woman has been trapped in her apartment. Within minutes they discover that the woman has been infected by an unknown virus that starts to make its way through the other residents, leading to the building being sealed off by Government scientists.
Angela, and the viewer, are then left to watch events occur through a lens as things spiral out of control.
Supposedly filmed in its entirety by the film’s fictional cameraman, Scott, Quarantine is not for viewers who suffer from motion sickness. Up stairs, along corridors, on the ground and back down the stairs again, the film gains momentum with every passing second.
The virus itself is an interesting MacGuffin, an excuse to introduce zombies to a neighbourhood setting quickly and efficiently – its almost fun trying to guess who’ll be “turned” next. Although largely unknown, the cast does feature a few familiar faces, though nobody has a star role.
While my gut reaction is to dislike Quarantine because of its remake status, the fact is that I don’t. This is an efficient, virtually shot-for-shot remake that does seem to want to chill the viewer and the ending, as with the original, gave me a few shivers.
Perhaps that’s the biggest criticism of Quarantine, that the film is merely “efficient”, lacking the sparky nature of the original, many of the one-off, never to be repeated camera angles from REC simply redone as accurately as possible.
I can understand the reasoning behind English language remakes, but unless the production team really tries to bring something original to our screens the endeavour is ultimately pointless and creatively bankrupt. There are plenty of films out there that simply go through the motions, producing far less entertaining fare than Quarantine.
If you’re looking for a well made, nerve jangling, rollercoaster ride of a film, then go for the original. If you want to watch a dark and bloody chiller with some genuine scares, and you really, really can’t watch anything with subtitles, give Quarantine a shot.
And then give in and buy REC anyway, it’s only six quid on play.com.
DVD Special Features
- Commentary with Writer/Director John Erick Dowdle and Writer/Producer Drew Dowdle
- Locked In: The Making of Quarantine
- Dressing the Infected: Robert Hall’s Make-Up Design
- Release Date: 9 March 2009
- Certificate: 18
- Discs: 1
- RRP: £15.99