By Josh Elmer
“Shit,” was the first thing I said after an inexorable 80 minutes of handheld horror. I have to admit sitting alone in the dark at 3 a.m. on a Saturday may have skewed my opinion of the film. However, the Spanish horror film [rec], which is the latest film to jump on the first-person camera format bandwagon, effectively uses the technique to create a genuinely scary experience (think Blair Witch Project/Cloverfield but scarier).
The story follows Angela and Pablo, a reporter and cameraman, who are following firefighters for their local television news show, While You Sleep. What is supposed to be a (presumably) cute segment turns deadly when the firefighters respond to a call in which a woman unexplainably attacks one of the police officers who responded. They attempt to leave the building to get medical attention only to find it has been sealed off by the government. Angela, Pablo, the Firemen and the rest of the residents have to survive the night.
[rec] reminds me of The Descent, with its claustrophobic feeling that is heightened due to the handheld camera, and the use of night vision. The final scene of [rec] is cast in the eerie green glow as we get our first hint of exposition: the failure of a chemist to cure a case of “demonic possession.” It’s a brilliantly structured film; the audience is left in complete suspense for at least 60 out of 80 minutes of the film.
With no exception [rec] is the most intense horror film I have seen since The Descent or maybe when I first saw Halloween when I was 12. The sheer terror it causes is exhilarating. I couldn’t go to sleep after I finished it.
On the 10th, the English remake, Quarantine, is going to be released nationwide. It stars Jennifer Carpenter of The Exorcism of Emily Rose and Dexter fame. Typically my experience with remakes is that they suck, especially remakes of foreign language films (compare Nuevas Reinas and Criminal). Comparing the cast listings on Imdb.com, however, Quarantine seems to have expanded the narrative of the original. So go see it, then rent [rec], and compare the two. If Quarantine is half as good as the original it’ll be worth the money.