Is it a stretch to say that after a bit over 10 years the most influential horror film could be The Blair Witch Project? That camera shaking, out of focus spooker dreaded by epileptics everywhere might be at this point the father of digital first person documentary style terror movie, with is like admitting that Vanilla Ice is the father of white-boy hip hop, sad but true. In all fairness, I did enjoy the concept of the Blair Witch, an experiment in realism in a genre that had become full of cliched "hey, don't have sex or you'll end up split in two by a masked psycho with an axe" antics. The shortcomings of The Blair Witch Project, however, leveled the film from marketing phenom to an almost ignored fluke only good for parody fodder. However, the Digital Age has been a blessing for horror films, providing a format relatively cheap and vital in the way most of us see the world daily, through the conduits of 1's and 0's. In Rec, the directing duo of Jaume Balagueró and Paco Plaza give us a furious, full gore glory flick that feels like Lenny Nero from Strange Days sold you a squid that looped Night Of the Living Dead into your cerebral cortex.
Angela (Manuela Velasco), a very pretty and persuasive reporter is eager for some action for her after hours show "While You Sleep" by shooting a segment on the Barcelona Fire Department. The first few hours are very dull, were the guys joke around the dining room, sleep, and shoot hoops while they wait for a call, for the most part to rescue a cat from a tree or help an elderly. When duty calls in what seems like a typical "fallen but can't get up" emergency, the firemen and t.v crew arrive at a condominium to provide assistance to an helpless old lady who, rather fleetingly, bites half a firefighter's face off. Being the good reporter she is, Angela urges her cameraman Pablo(the film's actual D.P Pablo Rosso)to stick his camera in the middle of firemen Manu(Ferran Terraza) and Alex(David Vert) along with the residents of this old building that suddenly finds its doors locked and covered in sheets of plastic. The group has been inexplicably quarantined and being threatened by S.W.A.T to shot to kill if any of them decide to leave. The intrepid Angela rolls tape on the residents to uncover a scoop, but only finds regular folks like the worried mother of a sick little girl and a flamboyant man who wonders about the whereabouts of the building's Super. The inhabitants are rapid when a yellow jump suited man is sent from the outside, but he offers nothing, instead inquires about the whereabouts of the injured. The t.v crew, forced to stay behind by the firemen, find an opening in the windowpane. Why are the injured men being handcuffed while the only thing the man from the outside does is take a blood sample? And why is one of those men snaking on the neck of his friend? It's zombies, I tell you! And just like we like them now in days, quickly infected and with the speed of a track and field star. As the survivors fight to stay alive, the building's last exit might lead Angela to the terrifying truth.
Rec, which last year was remade by Hollywood(they don't stop, do they?) as Quarantine, was like finding out what was going on in Spain while the events of 28 Days Later transpired in England. It has the same energy and enthusiasm of the latter, only lacking Danny Boyle's craftsmanship and scale. This is not a dismissal of Rec, it is a rather nasty pinch of a zombie pic that manages to feel very real. Like the Monster movie Cloverfield, a narrative emerges from what seems to be random footage revealing enough to suck you in while leaving some much left unanswered. The climax which leaves Angela wondering in the darkness reflected only by the camera's night vision is the creepiest use of green illumination since Wild Bill's taut of a blinded Clarice Sterling (or the Paris Hilton sex tape, yikes!!!). The film does drag in the second act with all the interviews Angela conducts until the action kicks in, since you end up getting information on some characters that serve no purpose other than dinner. Don't get frustrated, the short running time rewards your patience in a house of horrors ending that let's us know why the undead or the liveliest monsters around. -JR
Directed by: Jaume Balagueró, Paco Plaza
Written by: Jaume Balagueró, Luis Berdejo
Cast: Manuela Velasco, Ferran Terraza