Quarantine Review – Exactly Like the Original, and That’s Why It Works” width=”560″/>
Early in 2008, Spanish directors Jaume Balaguero and Paco Plaza made a shot-on-video horror flick called Rec that became a film festival must-see and then played to great acclaim across Europe. Shot with a first-person camera, it follows a cheesy late night TV show’s camera crew as they shadow a company of firefighters on their all-night shift. The firefighters get called to a building where it quickly becomes clear that flesh-eating zombies are on the loose, and the crew wind up trapped inside and fighting for their lives.
Sony Screen Gems bought both the distribution rights and the remake rights to Rec and have made a shot-for-shot English-language remake called Quarantine. The original Rec was a low budget affair with one single goal: To make the audience jump. And it worked; it’s a movie that has you springing out of your seat like a Mexican jumping bean. The question is: Does Quarantine achieve the same results?
Helmed by low budget horror director John Erick Dowdle, Quarantine slavishly follows the Rec template. Jennifer Carpenter (Emily Rose in The Exorcism of Emily Rose ) plays Angela, the on-camera talent in a two-person camera crew for a cheesy late night TV show shadowing a
company of firefighters on their all-night shift. The firefighters get
called to a building where it quickly becomes clear that flesh-eating
zombies are on the loose, and the crew wind up trapped inside and
fighting for their lives.
Fortunately, Quarantine has the same low ambitions that Rec
did (to scream “Boo!” at every opportunity) and it goes after its goal
with the same single-minded, low brow “anything goes” attitude. Some
original material with a killer rat, a killer dog and some gruesome
nail-biting are all thrown in — and all of it works. The disturbing
nudity has been removed (in Rec, several of the zombies are naked old people; in Quarantine
they wear tasteful, blood-splattered nightgowns and diapers). On the
other hand, buttressing the notion that Americans like violence but not
sex, the geriatric cheesecake is gone, but the gore is beefed up… and
it’s wet and sticky in all the right places. Some of the dialogue is
patently ridiculous, and Jennifer Carpenter has a few nervous
breakdowns that should have stayed in her acting workshop, but overall Quarantine, like Rec, aims low and scores.
So is Rec (and its carbon copy Quarantine) really all
that and a bag of chips? Let me put it to you this way. At one point in
Quarantine, a zombie is beaten to death with the POV camera. By
audiences get to the end of this adrenalized spook house, they’re going
to think that zombie got off lightly. If I were a betting man, I’d say
it would probably be number two or three at the box office this
weekend, and kudos to Sony Screen Gems for not messing up what they
had. I’m not sure that the movie should have been remade in the first
place, but in this day and age when horror remakes outnumber the
originals two-to-one, this is how remakes should be: Virtually
indistinguishable from the original.
Grady Hendrix is one of the founders and programmers of the New York Asian Film Festival. He writes about Asian film for Variety at Kaiju Shakedown and should have found something better to do with his life by now.