Set Report Preview: Quarantine

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Producer Roy Lee, co-writer Dowdle on the U.S. remake

Faster than the transmission of the flu in a kindergarten class, one studio is moving quickly to put the American stamp on a little-seen Spanish horror film. Unless you caught it at the American Film Market, scored a bootleg screener (you filthy pirate!) or live in Europe it’s likely you’ve never heard of the diabolical vérité urban nightmare called Rec. The jolting, go-for-the-jugular collaboration from directors Jaume Balleguero and Paco Plaza was only just bestowed a November introduction in Spain – effective trailers evoking chaos and teaser commercials featuring audiences (caught on cam via a night vision lens) shrieking in their seats while watching the film was used in its marketing campaign. To the outsider watching these viral clips on YouTube, Rec bristled with frantic energy. Only time would tell before it caught the eye of someone across the pond.

Enter Roy Lee, producer of American J-horror hits like The Ring (and its sequel) and The Grudge (and its sequel). Over the last few years he has also gobbled up remake rights for other Asian fare – Dark Water and Fox’s upcoming Shutter, to name two. Now he’s turning his keen entrepreneurial eye and hunger for horror to other territories throughout the world. Heading into production this year: a remake of the German zom-com Night of the Living Dorks. With partner Doug Davison, he’s currently producing Rec‘s U.S. counterpart, Quarantine, opening October 17th from Sony’s Screen Gems division.

“I watch every horror movie I can possibly see because I love horror projects,” Lee says, allowing Shock to pick his brain while visiting Quarantine‘s Culver City set on Sony’s Soundstage 23. “[‘Rec’] is the first time I had seen something in a couple of years that really went beyond what traditional horror movies have been. For a while Asian horror felt like it was cutting edge, like ‘The Ring’ and ‘The Grudge.’ ‘Rec’ for the first time it…it felt like it was completely new and fresh, that’s why I just knew right away that we should at least try to do something with it here in the U.S.”

Lee was taken by Rec‘s unpredictable nature. That says a lot for any seasoned horror fan who claims to have seen it all. “I can sort of expect what would happen [in today’s horror films]. This one was one of the movies that scared me now. The fact that it was done in a reality setting which I hadn’t seen since ‘The Blair Witch Project’ – this was able to take the Blair Witch and combine it with the best of ’28 Days Later’ or those types of movies.”

“Dexter’s Jennifer Carpenter stars as Angela Vidal in this re-telling as a television news reporter trapped inside a tenement with her camera man, the local residents and sundry fire department and police personnel (played by Jay Hernandez, Johnathan Schaech, Columbus Short and Steve Harris). The government and health authorities have frantically sealed the building from the outside fearing a stubborn strain of rabies has broken out within. What unfolds is a terrifying account told through the lens of the news camera as Vidal and company try to survive the night, skirt rabies-contaminated lunatics and avoid infection themselves.

The gimmick of the original, the true flavor of the story, if you will, is indeed the first-person storytelling device. It’s a provocative approach to tearing down the veil of fiction and reality between the viewer and the big screen. And to capture this, Lee and Davison turned to The Poughkeepsie Tapes‘s John and Drew Dowdle. “It was coincidence that ‘Rec’ was sent to me the same week ‘The Poughkeepsie Tapes’ was sent to me,” says Lee. “So both of these projects were sitting on my desk. One was a remake and one was to consider that person for potential other movies.” “Poughkeepsie,” a faux documentary about one serial killer’s discovered VHS home video library, attracted some heat at the 2007 Tribeca Film Festival. Its abundant use of hand-held camera made the Dowdle brothers a perfect fit for Quarantine.

“”We had some things that were offered to us and [‘Quarantine’] was right on the heels of ‘Poughkeepsie Tapes’ premiering at Tribeca,” explains Drew Dowdle, who co-wrote Quarantine‘s script with brother, and director, John Dowdle. “Roy Lee called us while we were still in New York and had this project at Vertigo Entertainment. So he came in and met us.” To whet their appetites, Lee sent the Dowdles a two-minute promo for Rec and its Spanish script. “We looked at some other projects, but this one just jumped out at us. We thought the original we very good but – once you get in the building and stuff starts to happen, it didn’t really elevate as much as we thought. [We beefed that up] by adding more scenes and more threats, not just the infection, plus we wanted to ground it in reality. The original was a bit more supernatural so we wanted to make ours something that could be real.”

Do the Dowdle’s pull it off? There’s quite a bit of blood shed on set (courtesy of Rob Hall’s Almost Human FX); Shock witnesses one scene in the midst of shooting that makes us jump out of our seat, so it appears they’re on the right track. Keep it here for our full set report and interviews with the cast and crew as we near Quarantine‘s release later in the year.

Source: Ryan Rotten