FILMAX INTERNATIONAL / MAGNET RELEASING (2007)

 

Directors: Jaume Balagueró / Paco Plaza

 

Starring: Manuela Velasco, Ferrán Teraza, Jorge-Yamam Serrano, Pablo Rosso, David Vert, Vicente Gil, Martha Carbonell, Carlos Vicente, Javier Botet

The Spanish have a go at the oft-used ‘shaky cam’ style of horror, this time utilising a TV crew (well, one cameraman) and an old apartment block in Barcelona. Something’s going on in there and we get to be part of the crew.

 

Ángela Vidal (Velasco) hosts a local show, “While You’re Sleeping”, which documents what goes on the late night hours of the suburb and surrounding areas. This night, she is with a crew of firemen on their rounds when they are called to assist a disturbance in a local apartment block. Excited to be getting some on-the-fly footage, Ángela and her cameraman Pablo (Rosso), jump aboard and head to the apartment. However, what they find in there is worse than anything they could have imagined. There’s a deadly virus in there, but where and how will they know?

Shaky cam. Something which has become a cliché now, a style that raises more questions than answers (i.e. why keep filming as opposed to…not dying?) but when it’s used well, it’s very effective. [REC] falls into that category. The use of the first person style in this claustrophobic setting works perfectly – the apartment is made of long narrow corridors, a tight central staircase with doors at either side of the levels, it’s dark, it’s quiet, it’s everything that shaky cam compliments perfectly. The camera taking time to focus on dark spots before something leaps out works a treat. It does become somewhat contrived as the movie goes on that you would continue with the camera, however in this case the night vision setting was perfect.

 

The movie is full of clever jolts and anticipated jump scares, however the uncertainty of what is happening provides an unsettling feeling. The immediacy and realism generated is fantastic and provides many moments to be afraid of. Balagueró and Plaza used the old trick of keeping certain scares secret from their cast in order to elicit genuine reactions – I’m pretty sure it worked. It’s fun to watch Velasco pound around the apartment like a rabbit caught in the headlights, though her crew are pretty much labelled ‘dispensable’ as the body count rises (one body literally does ‘hit the floor’). After the rush of the previous scenes, the movies terrifying ending literally had me whispering “what the fuck is that?” in a mix of fear and panic and provides a satisfying movie ending for this genre.

 

The downfalls are that as mentioned the shaky cam is not a new phenomenon, so it isn’t a novel addition. The story itself is fine, though becomes slightly muddled towards the end with the virus origins – coupled with clues given previously they don’t all merge together seamlessly (though the revealed origin is still horrifying). The use of police/soldiers as dead meat is an oft-used convention is horror and it’s no different here, with one or two given slightly more expanded roles. Sometimes I hear of people avoiding movies or negatively rating them due to subtitles – sigh, it’s not hard to scan text and follow action.

 

The movie flourishes with what it has – a small budget, small but affable cast (nasties aside), great location and a good premise kept under wraps until the bitter end. [REC] is a great horror movie and deserves to be seen by a bigger audience, not the watery US remake Quarantine (shudder).

 

This movie will make you shit your pants.

July 2nd 2017

© 2016 Matt Hudson / What I Watched Tonight / Essex

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