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Archive for November 19th, 2009

(Absurdly Late) Halloween Movies: [REC]

I KNOW.   I know.   I’m so late.   I’m the White freakin’ Rabbit.

Angela Vidal is a Spanish reporter.   She and her cameraman Pablo work for a show called While You Sleep, which in addition to being the motto of the United Federation of Stalkers is a show that highlights the lives and times of people with night-time careers.   I’m sure the previous shows of While You Sleep are scintillating viewing.

Angela and Pablo are assigned to cover a firehouse.    They manage to muck around, interview some people and have some nice scenes of Angela freaking out about her hair, her makeup, her interview subjects.

When a call comes in, Angela and Pablo gladly hop a ride with the firefighters since the firehouse is so dreadfully dull everyone in there seems to be contemplating huffing some fire retardant just to have something to do.   They arrive on scene to find an elderly woman in her apartment.  They think she’s ill but really, she’s more in the realm of “totally fucking demented thanks to some zombifying virus”.    The elderly lady takes a chunk out of a policeman’s neck, attacks one of the firefighters and throws him over the balcony into the lobby below.

It’s not long before Spain’s version of the CDC shows up to lock shit down tighter than Fort Knox.    Inside, the residents and various first responders begin to panic.   Their only thoughts are of – what else – escape.    These thoughts only become more frenzied as the residents who have been attacked become violent and reanimate, even after they are dead.

In short terms, it’s Suck City, population two – Pablo and Angela.

[REC]‘s greatest strength is that it manages to take some very tired tropes and a sub-genre that’s becoming dangerously close to being played out and creates something fresh and exciting.    Quite a large portion of [REC]‘s scariness lies in jump scares and effective tricks, but they’re at least done well and not half-heartedly.

The bad part is that [REC] perhaps gives too much away.   Anytime I feel like a movie gives too much away, I think back to Vincenzo Natali’s brilliant Cube – a movie that has no real explanation for why the characters end up in the cube and is all the scarier for it.   While [REC] does something a little brave in giving the origins of the zombie virus a new history and spin, perhaps less is more.   Just the very thought of being trapped in an apartment building with your mutated, bloodthirsty neighbors is scary enough, surely.

The found footage aspect of [REC] is a little less obnoxious, mainly because a plot point is that Pablo’s a professional cameraman, so the footage looks cleaner and at times, less shakier than an amateur’s work would.    The incessant tricks – dropping the camera on the floor, Pablo and Angela rewinding the tape over and over – get old after a while.

The movie’s a lovely, solid effort though and good enough to make you wish we got more like it more often.    It feels fresh and thrilling, even with its faults, and it already has a sequel.    I don’t think anyone will begrudge it a sequel or two, given that if they get time to expand on the odd backstory, the franchise could go interesting places.

If you want to see it, Netflix has it and I’d recommend loading it into your queue and watching it with friends.   Perhaps not your neighbors, though.

 

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