Sommerleigh Pollonais – Horror Head Writer
Yesterday, I should’ve given you lovely readers a “heads-up.” For those of you who’ve been keeping up with our 31 Horror Movies in 31 Days, you’ll know I’ve been jumping a decade for each review. Well sadly there aren’t enough ten year periods to make up the 31 films so (trumpets please) HENCEFORTH we’ll be reviewing one horror movie per year, sticking with the cream of that year’s crop, until we hit 2020. Then it’ll be a battle royale to see which five horror flicks were stellar enough to make the cut.
Now back to our regular scheduled programming…
For Day 13 we have Spanish Horror film REC (2007). A television reporter and cameraman follow emergency workers into a dark apartment building and are quickly locked inside with something terrifying. Before my review a SPOILER ALERT warning is in effect.
Horror is one category of film genres but like other types of movies there are sub-genres that fall within this category. My least favorite of these are the ones they call “torture porn” (Hostel/I Spit on Your Grave/Cannibal Holocaust) and of course, the dreaded “found-footage” made popular by The Blair Witch Project.
It’s a headache-inducing, cheap way of making a movie and 90 per cent of them aren’t worth the Advil it cost to watch them. But every now and then a talented group of folks get together and find a way to squeeze a diamond out of a coal. This is my long winded way of saying REC is one of those diamonds!
The film opens with reporter Angela Vidal (Manuela Velasco) and her off-screen cameraman Pablo as they shoot an episode for their documentary series While You’re Asleep. Tonight’s episode will focus on firefighters, and while things start out relatively normal (giving us enough time to build relationships with the characters) they get a call about someone falling from an apartment complex. They arrive at the scene and enter the building to find tenants complaining about all the commotion. And upon investigating one of the apartments, they discover a woman who’s covered with drool and blood. She attacks them and when they run for help, they realize the building has been locked down as a biohazard protocol. What’s the Spanish word for screwed?
As I said before, I hate found footage films, but the POV elements here fit perfectly and actually make sense considering we are following a reporter. Directors Jaume Balaguero and Paco Plaza deliver a zombie movie with a difference. Confined to just one building and using mostly natural lighting instead of studio ones injected this story with a sense of reality rarely seen in this type of movie. They also never told the cast what the fates of their characters would be by not giving them a script! It made the actors nervous and apprehensive while shooting, the perfect blend of emotions to have in a zombie movie.
Because it’s a Spanish language film, there’s this extra layer of unpredictability because foreign films don’t tend to play by the same rules or use the same tropes seen in their Western counterparts. You just have to watch Train to Busan or 28 Days Later, both non-American zombie movies, to understand what I’m referring to. This can also be seen in the story itself. Compare REC to its American remake Quarantine for instance. The US version says the virus was caused by science. A tenant tried to create super rabies and things go wrong. Your typical mad scientist trope right? In this original version, it’s actually a religious zealot trying to isolate the cause of demonic possessions by extracting it from a little girl using biology (almost like the possession is a physical disease). Yes it’s weird but it’s DIFFERENT and it speaks to the originality they were going for here.
The story and its scares are so well executed, it’s easy to forgive the lack of character development. You’re completed invested in the mystery of it all (they hide the info about how the disease was born for the very end) and by utilising night vision for the final moments, you’re forced into the shoes of our protagonist, lost and terrified in pitch blackness, awaiting your fate. The sequels are a mix bag and shifts both the tone and the use of found footage, depending on who was in the director’s chair (both Jaume and Paco would take turns directing the sequels) but REC will always standout to me as an impeccably executed film and one of the best low-budget found footage movies ever made.
Sommer’s Score: 7 out of 10
Sommerleigh of the House Pollonais. First of Her Name. Sushi Lover, Queen of Horror Movies, Comic Books and Binge Watching Netflix. Mother of two beautiful black cats named Vader and Kylo. I think eating Popcorn at the movies should be mandatory, PS4 makes the best games ever and I’ll be talking about movies until the zombie apocalypse comes.
Double Tap Baby!