Reviewed by: Susanna Krawczyk

As a fan of wobbly-camera, shouty, running-abouty films like Cloverfield and The Blair Witch Project I was expecting to enjoy Quarantine, a remake of 2007’s claustrophobic Spanish zombie film [Rec]. However, it largely failed to impress. (I will also say straight away that this is a film best enjoyed with as little knowledge of the plot as possible, so if you haven’t seen [Rec] and think that an intense point of view-style horror movie is your sort of film, go and see it without reading any further!)

Jennifer Carpenter stars as Angela Vidal, a young reporter who has been sent to interview firefighters in Los Angeles and shadow them during their night’s work. She and her cameraman Scott (Steve Harris) are to spend the night in the station, talking to firemen and killing time until the real excitement starts - a real, live emergency to go along to!

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In this first 20 minutes or so, the POV camera style works quite well, and makes it easy to get to know and feel connected to Angela and Scott (even though we rarely see his face). It allows for a candid view of the firemen, too, as they embarrass themselves by forgetting their mics are on and fool around in the back of the shot.

Unfortunately, once the firefighters leave the station on an emergency call to help someone trapped in an apartment, the shaky POV camera style quickly becomes tiresome, making it hard to get a good enough look at the each member of the quickly-introduced supporting cast to consistently identify them. This is somewhat mitigated by the lengthy scenes in which people talk, argue and panic, which at least give ample time to work out who is who and what’s going on, but I found it very difficult at times during action scenes to work out which characters were dead, who was biting who and generally what was going on. While this certainly creates an air of chaotic unease, it can make it quite difficult to know who to worry about and to root for if you are even slightly engaged with the characters.

This is a movie that wants to be two things at once – it's simultaneously trying to be a tense thriller about being trapped in a small space with highly mobile hungry zombies and a more thoughtful creeping-horror sort of film about how expendable the average person is to the authorities, and how easily you can be sacrificed for the greater good. There was a moment when I thought the movie was going to go the more thoughtful way, and that would have been interesting, but it soon reasserts itself as more standard zombie fare.

As far as comparing Quarantine to [Rec] goes, I’m sure very few people would be surprised to hear that [Rec] is the better film – but only very slightly. The camerawork often seems more staged in Quarantine and the lighting and overall look is far more film-like. [Rec] has a rawer feel and its cast look more like real people and less like pretty young actors. The menace itself is scarier and has a more supernatural feel than in the remake, which is, I suppose, an issue of personal taste when it comes to horror.

Quarantine is an entertaining-enough film, with some genuine scares and a decent atmosphere of claustrophobic horror. Avoid if you get motion sickness, though, as the camera weaves and swoops enough to trigger even a strong-stomached viewer.

Reviewed on: 04 Dec 2008
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Firemen face deadly virus in LA apartment block.
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Angus Wolfe Murray ***

Director: John Erick Dowdle

Writer: John Erick Dowdle, Drew Dowdle, based on the screenplay for [Rec]

Starring: Jennifer Carpenter, Steve Harris, Jay Hernandez, Johnathon Schaech, Columbus Short, Andrew Fiscella, Rade Serbedzija, Greg Germann, Bernard White, Dania Ramirez

Year: 2008

Runtime: 89 minutes

BBFC: 18 - Age Restricted

Country: US


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