Quarantine (2008) – John Erick Dowdle

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These days, it’s hard to find a movie that’s really truly original. Everything is either an adaptation of a book, a remake of a something from the 70’s 80’s or an American bastardization of a great foreign film. Modern horror movies are no exception to this rule. Hollywood has churned out tons of horror remakes from successful international films (often unbeknownst to the U.S. audience). The effectiveness of these films generally falls short of the original. A few exceptions come to mind however, The Ring, Let Me In, and today’s featured film: Quarantine. Directed by John Erick Dowdle, this 2008 remake of the Spanish found footage flick [REC], does its job pretty well. It doesn’t quite deliver the same punch that the original did, but it’s a solid remake, that remains true to the things we loved about [REC].

That being said, as I watched this, I found myself asking, “why did they even make this movie in the first place?” It’s really almost a shot-for-shot remake of the original, with a dumbed-down ending and explanation. So the answer to “why?” is simple. Some people are too fat, lazy, and stupid to read subtitles while watching a movie. Hollywood spotted a great movie and wanted to cash in on it. Rather than directly releasing it in its original version, they decided to reshoot the entire thing in English so that they could get $10.50 from the all the drunken, meth-head rednecks who would never go see a movie with subtitles. My response to that is: we should not cater to the knuckle-dragging lowest-common denominator. If Honey Boo Boo’s mom won’t strap herself and the rest of her litter of toothless, illiterate swine to the back of a flat-bed truck and waddle down to the local theater because the movie “ain’t even in English” then fuck them. That should be the threshold for mandatory sterilization.

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But I’m getting a little off topic. I’m going to forgo a long-winded review of this movie because it really is exactly the same as REC, which I reviewed a couple of months ago. The movie follows a camera crew who is shadowing some firemen on a rescue call to an apartment building. The building is infested with ravenous zombies who start eating everyone. The CDC/military locks the building down and quarantines them inside. They try to escape/find out the cause of the disease and they find something horrible in the attic. You should really just watch the original instead. Same movie, but it’s scarier. If you take this movie out of context and don’t look at it as a remake, then it’s a solid horror movie. It’s scary, suspenseful, intense, and has a decent story. It’s paced really well and it keeps you on your toes throughout the whole thing.

I know it’s not really fair to just review this movie by comparing it to the original, but if you don’t want that kind of comparison, then don’t spend $15 million remaking a movie shot for shot. Though it’s basically the same movie, there are a few things that I didn’t like about this one. I think they sacrificed some of the slow-building suspense for in-your-face intense action. This fast-paced action was in the original too but I think they ramped it up in the remake at the expense of the overall feeling of terror.

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There’s not really a whole lot more to say about this one. It looks just like the original. The acting, directing, and writing are good, just like the original. Everything is almost as good as the original. Really there was no point to this movie- just selling cheap thrills to illiterate hillbillies.

The verdict: It’s good, but don’t bother. Just go see the real one. And if the thought of sitting through a 92 minute movie while reading subtitles is unpleasant to you, then go stab yourself in the eyeballs with a rusty pocket knife and watch this one. You’ll still be able to hear all the dialogue in English.

  1. Is it scary: 6- It’s definitely scary but I think something is lost from the original. They cranked up the voltage on the action and it didn’t quite have the scare caliber anymore.
  2. Originality: 1- Literally almost exactly the same. Nothing new whatsoever. The only thing they changes was the reasoning behind the infection. And the new explanation was worse.
  3. Blood: 7- Definitely a bloody mess. That was the best part of this one. They stayed true to the gore factor.
  4. Believability: 4– As with the original, I had problems believing that people would do a lot of what they did in this movie. I just felt that peoples’ reactions to the situations were unrealistic.
  5. Setting/Cinematography: 5- Found Footage: Minus 1 point. They seemed to use the found footage as a way to get around showing us certain things. I want to see what’s happening. It doesn’t add to the authenticity or believability to have the camera shaking everywhere. Even if it did, would it be worth it at the cost of showing the audience what’s going on? No.

Final Score: 23/50

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REC (2007) – Jaume Balagueró, Paco Plaza

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Continuing with my theme of zombies for the week is the this Spanish found-footage (first-person/ Blair Witch-style) flick, REC. Jaume Balaguero and Paco Plaza give us a new twist on the zombie genre while mixing in some other psychological elements, mostly brought on by the use of the first-person style. The shaky/choppy camera makes it hard to really see what’s happening, and that really conveys the feeling of chaos and fear happening on screen. Most of the movie takes place inside of a locked-down/quarantined apartment building. This adds to the mix a nice feeling of claustrophobia and helplessness. Add to this some modern, fast-paced, nasty zombies, a bunch of dark corners and hallways, and a sinister back story  and you’ve got a damn scary movie.

Now, there are a few elements that I disagree with, but overall, I think this is a really good horror movie. I get the feeling that the camera style is actually used to make up for or conceal something that’s lacking. They seem to be using the fact that you can’t see what’s happening as an excuse to not fully develop certain things. Maybe I’m just being picky. I’ve never been a big fan of this style. I want to see what’s happening. Have confidence in your scenery, and your special effects and show me everything. This only came up a couple of times specifically so maybe I’m just overreacting.

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I have two other serious problems with the whole first-person camera style and then I’ll drop it. First, how the hell does the battery last long enough to film an entire movie? He’s using the floodlights and night vision for half the film. That’s got to eat up a lot of battery. (There’s actually a scene in Cloverfield where he stops and turns off the camera to charge it. Thank you.)  And secondly, I’m having trouble believing that the police or the clandestine CDC-style agents in nuclear melt-down gear are allowing this dude with a professional TV camera just follow them around while they shoot and club and snap the necks of sick old ladys and kids. But you just have to suspend your disbelief for a bit and get over it because the movie is actually really good. Don’t get too hung up on things like logic or believability. After all, you’re here to watch people eat each other. And don’t worry, there’s lots of that.

Ok so the movie opens up with Angela, a TV hostess who’s documenting the operations of a local fire station. Soon they get a call and she and her cameraman are off with them to rescue an old woman who’s trapped in her apartment. As soon as we show up, we find out there’s more going on in this apartment. The old lady is screaming gibberish (or Spanish? maybe both) and soaked in blood and she tries to eat the paramedics. So the cops and paramedics try to escape and get their wounded comrade to a hospital, but the Spanish version of the CDC comes along and blocks all the exits so nobody can get out. It becomes pretty apparent that the old lady’s condition is contagious and everyone basically starts eating everyone else.

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Now we’re trapped in this building, which is actually pretty dark and creepy already and everyone is screaming and fighting and eating each other. It’s like a night club but instead of Ecstasy, everyone is doing bath salts. So the ever-dwindling number of survivors tries to find a way to escape. They plan to go to the basement but somehow they end up in the attic (go figure) and there we find out the source of the infection. And there’s a couple of other surprises up there too.

The climactic scene is just about perfect and really scary as hell. It’s dark and suspenseful and exciting and terrifying and…OH MY GOD, WHY THE FUCK IS SHE BREATHING SO LOUDLY. CONTROL YOURSELF. It’s so intense my fists clenched up and I said this to the screen. Get a grip. Okay. All things considered, this movie really delivers everything you want it to. It spawned a pretty decent sequel and a really good U.S. remake (which spawned a god-awful piece of shit sequel) and I think there’s even a REC 3 out there.

Let’s see how the original stands up to the rating system.

  1. Is it scary: 8- Its creepy, it’s in your head and it’s in your face. The whole thing is really scary. It even builds up and gets more scary and intense as it goes.
  2. Originality: 7-They’ve done a good job updating an aging genre while maintaining the roots of what we love about it. I like the way they explain the way the infection was started. Clever twist.
  3. Blood: 7- We want lots of blood in a zombie movie and REC definitely delivers.
  4. Believability: 4- There was a lot here to make peace with before you could really enjoy this one. Also, they spent the whole fucking movie running up the stairs (I know they didn’t have much choice here but I have to call them on it.)
  5. Setting/Cinematography: 6- I’m conflicted on this one. I’m not a big fan of the first-person thing – I feel like it’s kinda cheap and gimmicky. On the other hand, there are some cool shots and the setting is definitely creepy as hell.

Final Score: 32/50

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