30 Days of Fright – 08: [REC]

Before he shacked up with Katy Perry I quite liked Russell Brand. I still enjoy his comedy, but I’m really not sure about that Perry one. I was terribly disappointed when the whole scandal about his having taken the piss out of Manuel from Fawlty Towers broke. Not because of what he’d done, but because it meant that his radio show was no longer going to be on. I used to get the podcast so I could listen to the mayhem on my way to work of a Monday morning. After the whole Manuel thing happened, Brand did a stand-up routine based on the experience and his observations of the affair. He had read a forum where someone had given out about his abusing Manuel, because he was Spanish. As old Russ pointed out, Fawlty Towers wasn’t a documentary! Speaking of Spain and documentaries…

[REC] (2007) is a Spanish movie about a cameraman and a presenter who are out making an episode of a TV documentary about people who work during the night. On the night the film takes place the documentary makers are following the nocturnal activities of a fire station in Barcelona. The peace and quiet in the station is broken when a call comes in about an elderly woman trapped in an apartment. Some firemen and the film crew go to the apartment building to lend assistance. They are met by some police who say the neighbours heard screaming. Two policemen and two firemen break into the apartment, watched by Angela the documentary presenter and Pablo her cameraman.

In the apartment they discover an older woman in her nightclothes, covered in blood and acting like a wild animal. She attacks one of the policemen biting his neck and severely injuring him. When some of the group flee downstairs they discover that the health authorities have arrived on the scene with what appear to be Special Forces who have literally sealed off the building with plastic sheeting and are not letting anyone out. The authorities outside put the remaining uninjured policeman in charge and he struggles to keep order among those trapped inside as everyone experiences rising panic.

The second fireman, who had remained in the apartment with the elderly woman, falls down the stairwell from the top floor and is badly injured. This makes everyone realise that there’s something very very wrong with the woman upstairs, a theory that’s confirmed when they investigate her place for a second time.

A health inspector enters the building and reveals that a pet dog of one of the residents had been admitted to a vet’s clinic during the week suffering from a strange disease. The dog had been put down and resurrected shortly after. It quickly becomes apparent that the disease has spread to the human population of the apartment block, and the injured policeman and fireman soon begin to display signs of infection. This adds to the urgency of those trapped in the building who try to find a way out. As they struggle for survival the infection spreads and another threat awakens.

Jazz Hands!!!!

[REC] is a foreign language movie, with subtitles, which is a little bit off putting in this case. Normally subtitles are not a problem, but for me they only really work for films that are leisurely in pace, [REC] is a fast paced film with loads of panic driven dialogue. There are scenes where there are several people screaming at each other and talking over each other but only one or two lines of subtitles. All non-English language films with subtitles suffer from only being able to display a limited amount of information on screen via the subtitles so the viewer is left with feeling that they’re missing out on something, nuances of tone of voice and the like.

The story is something we’ve seen before, perhaps because [REC] was remade as Quarantine but also because the virus creating zombie-types is something that’s been done many times. [REC] tries to be a different type of film than the 28 Days movies but the similarities are glaring. Where [REC] tried to distinguish itself was by setting the story in a single, contained building thereby creating a sense of claustrophobia , but that feeling never really develops, but it’s not missed as the way the building appears on screen, particularly the way the lighting is setup, actually adds to the realism quite well.

The way the film ends stands out as it’s quite excellent. As the final scene unfolds you expect to see something akin to the ending of The Blair Witch Project, or even The Silence of the Lambs, but it twists slightly and turns genuinely frightening. The way the scene is filmed, coupled with the terror the characters are experiencing, brings you to a place where you feel anything is possible but when the end comes nothing could have prepared you for it.

It’s hard to comment on the casting as it’s unfair to judge performances when you can’t understand what the actors are saying, that said I liked Manuela Velasco as Angela, even though her character seemed to swing from being a screaming girly to being a bit of a bad-ass for no good reason.

[REC] is another one of those First Person Shooter type films made from the point of view of someone carrying a camera, like Blair Witch and Cloverfield and just like those films [REC] suffers from the problem of characters on screen trying to justify why the person with the camera should keep filming. In [REC] the inhabitants of the apartment building keep pressing on the film crew to carry on as it’s important to document what’s happening to them, which seems like crap when you consider that they were in the process of fending off a zombie attack. I’m not sure if this type of film-making has much life left in it due to the need for a good reason to be doing the filming and usually, though not in [REC], an explanation is needed as to how the footage got released for you to see it.

The way the story concludes leaves itself open for sequels and prequels very well leaving plenty of unanswered questions, the types of questions that make for fun speculation as opposed to leaving you scratching your head.

Two Thumbs Up for [REC]

Mr. Fawlty, Mr. Fawlty, I learn eengleesh from a boook, and about movies from these websites:
Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/REC_(film)
IMDB: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1038988/

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