Opening Friday, October 10th
Jennifer Carpenter as Angela Vidal
Steve Harris as Scott Percival
Jay Hernandez as Jake
Johnathon Schaech as George Fletcher
Columbus Short as Danny Wilensky
Andrew Fiscella as James McCreedy
Greg Germann as Lawrence
Directed by John Dowdle
I never thought seeing Rec would have made writing a review for Quarantine such a bitch. In fact, shortly after seeing the latter, I considered exhuming my Rec critique, swapping out the title, replacing the Spanish actors names for their American replacements and calling it day. That’s how similar the two films are. Except, one exhilarated me. The other left me feeling rather apathetic. Care to guess which one? (Hint: Check out my rating for Rec.) Quarantine is by no means a failure on the Dowdle Bros. (John and Drew) part. They were asked to redo Rec in English. They succeeded.
Quarantine is a taut production with infectious on-screen energy (evident in the performances and camera work), only very slight wicked and welcome additions to Rec‘s base story, and similar scare beats. Will it make you jump? I have no doubt about it. Is the ending bound to freak you out? The Dowdles were smart enough to excise none of Rec‘s best moments, so to answer the question, yes. “What’s up then, Rotten – why so glum?” you ask. Well, I disagree with the approach. It’s too accurate. Too clean. The Dowdles’ film doesn’t reflect their identity – similar in the way Carpenter made The Thing his own or Cronenberg imbued The Fly with themes indicative of his past works. The Dowdles have created a serviceable facsimile and that’s about it. And, unlike Rec, the frazzled emotional residue Quarantine works so hard to build diminishes quickly once the film is over. It’s like wandering through a Halloween haunted attraction you’ve been through before: Filled with predictable, hollow thrills.
That’s not to knock Quarantine‘s efforts in front of and behind the camera. Jennifer Carpenter starts the film off on an amiable note as convincing television reporter Angela Vidal, a gal assigned, with her camera man Steve, to take a look at the goings-on at a Los Angeles fire department on the night shift. Her desire for “action” (not that kind of action, perv) is answered when the two firemen she’s been shadowing are called to a downtown apartment building. What is seemingly a routine health emergency call descends into a nightmare when one of the first responders is attacked by an old woman and the building is sealed off by the CDC. Vidal’s, at first, innocent video package becomes a first-hand account of a rabies outbreak that spreads like wildfire through the tenants, and animals, within the building. Dangers from inside and outside threaten her and the rest of the survivors.
Vidal and company go through the motions like those in Rec, hitting various degrees confusion, paranoia, defeat and debilitating fear. Carpenter’s the only one in the cast who walks away plausibly hitting every note; Jay Hernandez gives it his best, especially when it comes to the physical demands Quarantine‘s “zombie” or “infected” sub-genre trappings require him to meet (bashing people with blunt and/or sharp objects, barricading doors). Columbus Short is the most ill-fitted one in the film to don an official’s uniform. The rest of the cast don’t get nearly enough development or empathy time and are lost to the action and roving eye of the subjective camera.
Where the Dowdles obviously have their fun is in the orchestration of the “infected” attacks. They’re violent and gory, nauseating to watch at times, but effective nonetheless. There’s an especially pleasing “rat squish” for you rodent haters out there. The “infected” dog and snipers are unexpected flourishes not from the original but do well to enhance the ride. Still, I couldn’t shake a prevailing sense of dÃ©jÃ vu. As I mentioned before, it’s too on the money when compared to the original for my tastes, but those not familiar with Rec – if they haven’t gotten tired of the subjective camera approach to horror by now – are sure to get the heebie-jeebies from Quarantine‘s house of horrors scenario.