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Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Day 87: Quarantine

This lime Jell-o has gone bad

There's a fine line between good and terrible when it comes to movies shot in the “found footage” horror style. Sometimes you get people wandering around for an hour an a half, boring the audience to the point where they cheer for the villain to kill them (The Blair Witch Project) and other times you get a roller-coaster of fairly believable action (Cloverfield). I remember seeing commercials for Quarantine a few years ago and thinking, “Oh jeez, another one of these shaky-cam first person horror movies where nothing happens.” Well, I was right about the shaky-cam, but wrong about nothing happening.

Quarantine stars Jennifer Carpenter (The Exorcism of Emily Rose, Faster) as reporter Angela Vidal. Along with her cameraman, Scott (Steve Harris, The Practice, The Rock), Angela is tailing a Los Angeles firefighting crew. We see the entire movie through Scott's lense and tag along with them as the crew responds to a call to an apartment building. Details are unclear as to why they are called other than a woman was heard screaming in her room. The woman, Mrs. Espinoza, is disheveled and covered in blood. Out of nowhere, she attacks a police officer and bites him in the neck. They carry the police officer downstairs to get him help, but find the doors locked from the outside. While they are trying to figure a way out, Mrs. Espinoza throws a firefighter over the railing, sending him crashing to the floor below. Various apartment dwellers begin to turn into zombies and attack the other inhabitants. Angela gets to a TV and sees that the situation is being covered up by the police. Scientists in HAZ-MAT suits arrive to conduct tests and one informs the residents that this virus infecting people started in a dog and was unlike anything they have ever seen before. Will they be able to survive and get the video to the public?

Trucks go "Vroom!" Film at 11.

The movie's story reminds me of the opening scene in Dawn Of The Dead where police raid an apartment full of zombies. It feels like someone took that idea and made it into a full-length film. That being said, it's actually a remake of a 2007 Spanish horror film, REC. Quarantine combines a mixture of fear of present danger and fear of the unknown. The advantage of having the movie in the first-person perspective of the camera is that the audience is literally in the middle of the action. We share the same actions and emotions as the characters which creates a more real sense of fear. We only learn what they learn, we do not have the bonus of seeing what is going on outside of the apartment to know what is really happening. Jennifer Carpenter gives a very good performance as we witness her descent from a confident reporter into a jangled mess of terrified nerves. The zombies are geared more towards the faster side, but they're not sprinting like in 28 Days Later. I've come to accept fast zombies and the ones in this movie were believable. Speaking of action, there is a lot of it in this movie with plenty of blood. There is one scene where Scott kills a zombie with his camera. It's very creative and entertaining to watch as the audience is practically being smashed into a zombie's face.

Of course, with every found footage movie, the camera work is very jumpy at times. While it does create a sense of realism to the movie, it also leaves the audience very disoriented at times. That might be the point, but getting your audience dizzy and nauseous does run the risk of having them stop watching. As Spinal Tap once said, it's such a fine line between stupid and clever, it's a fine line between great story telling and vomit-inducing. There are a few minor plot holes I found myself pointing out during the film, but the movie does try to answer them as best as possible, like “Why don't they just break a window?” Answer: SNIPER! Director John Erick Dowdle does a good job of balancing the action and the emotion throughout the entire film. There is no music in the movie which does take some getting used to, but it doesn't hinder the action.

Golden Girls gets a gritty remake

Quarantine was a pleasant, entertaining surprise with lots of good action and suspense. The acting and directing is good all around. The first-person filming gets the audience right in the middle of the action, but is a bit unsteady at times and can be disorienting. This movie is definitely worth your time.


1 comment:

  1. If you get a chance, I suggest that you check out [REC]. My understanding is that they are mostly the same movie, but the differences are HUGE (like in [REC] instead of it being super rabies, it is a demonic virus the Church has been trying to eradicate) and impact the worthy sequel, [REC]2.

    And of course [REC]3 is about to come out with one of the best found footage premises I have not seen yet: wedding video.

    I really cannot say much for this movie. I was sad that the ending was revealed in nearly every commercial, and I heard that the similarities to [REC] were so great I did not even see why I should bother paying to see the same movie again.