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Saturday, April 30, 2011

Movie Review: [REC]


[Rec] is a 2007 Spanish horror film directed by Jaume Balagueró and Paco Plaza that takes place in an apartment building infected with some kind of contagious disease. One night, Ángela Vidal (Manuela Velasco) and her cameraman set out to a fire station to film the latest episode of Ángela's show, While You're Sleeping. The two move about the station, recording the rather mundane livelihood of a firefighter at the station as they wait for any type of nighttime call. It ultimately comes, and the two join firefighters Manu (Ferran Terraza) and Álex (David Vert) to respond to a call at an apartment where an elderly woman is said to be hurt. When the group arrives, they walk to the old woman's apartment with the police already on-scene; the woman appears very agitated and ultimately attacks one of the police officers, biting into his neck, putting him into critical condition. As the group of people shake off the shock of what they just saw, they take the injured man downstairs where the other people living in the complex inform them that they have been sealed inside the building by authorities outside. This sets off a mass panic as everyone inside the building tries to figure out why they've been trapped and just what kind of menace they have to face inside.

I've known about this movie for quite a while, but it really came into my collective consciousness after an American remake (entitled Quarantine) was released in 2008. All I've ever heard about the film was that it's one of the scariest ever to grace the screen, so I've been eagerly awaiting the opportunity to give it a view. Although it's not quite the scariest flick I've had the chance to see, it definitely ranks as one of the best horror films in my film repertoire.

The film is shot in the now-relatively-common Blair Witch style, giving us a character's point-of-view throughout the film. When done correctly, these types of movies can be extremely effective in that they give the viewer a chance to immerse themselves completely into the story. It's almost as though we're the one holding the camera, filming everything that's going on around us. The makers of [Rec] use this style to the best of their ability, not only succeeding with the shaky-camera style, but giving the audience a sense of confusion and claustrophobia that's truly difficult to convey in cinema. Kudos to these guys for doing just that.

I also found the cast to be stellar, although I can see where some people could be annoyed by them. I've been reading some reviews, and a lot of people criticized the cast as being too one-dimensional. In their defense, this type of film with this type of story doesn't necessarily leave room for any type of character development. It's supposed to be a kind of real-time movie with the actors simply reacting to their surroundings. So to those critics who said that the acting wasn't any good, I'd have to disagree. I thought that each character, while ultimately expendable, brought a different type of persona to the film. Velasco does very well as our lead, taking us through a wide range of emotions that fit perfectly with what's going on around her. Every other character complements her Ángela well, making a rather strong ensemble cast.

I did have a little bit of issue with the screenplay in that they tried a little too hard to explain things at the end. In the film's climactic moments, Ángela starts to piece together the puzzle, but the reveal is so blatantly obvious that I felt a little insulted. It comes down to the whole concept of "showing, not telling." In this case, the filmmakers "tell" us the reasons behind this disease rather than simply "showing" us the pieces and letting us put it all together on our own. Ultimately, I don't think any explanation was really needed - in a film like this, where confusion is key, I think there needs to be a little bit of ambiguity at the finale to make it a little stronger. It's not like the ending destroys the movie, but I did feel like it could've been a little better by being a little more ambiguous.

Overall, [Rec] is a fantastically-shot film that's sure to deliver both suspense and some jump-out-of-your-seat scares. I even have to admit that I yelled out loud at one point, which has only happened during a film once before (when I watched 1979's Alien for the first time). That alone should make you want to give this one a shot. I don't think you'll be disappointed.

Movie Review Summary:
Grade: A-
1.5 Thumbs Up

Addition to Rankings
Best Horror/Thriller: #25

Addition to Awards
2007: 2 nominations

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