[Rec] (Jaume Balagueró & Paco Plaza, 2007)

You know what this movie needed instead of the cute, bubbly reporter in peril?

Borat.

But seriously, this was a lot of fun.  The whole first-person shakycam, put-you-right-in-the-terrifying situation fad could’ve (and pretty much has) gotten old with Blair Witch Project and Cloverfield alone.  But this is probably the best of ’em, and certainly the most frightening.  Yeah, it’s predictable (anybody who’s anybody knows what’s coming when the policeman and the fireman get bitten), and the whole premise of people being trapped in close quarters (in this case, an apartment building under quarantine while the reporter and her cameraman are doing a piece on the fire department) certainly isn’t new, but the scares are so well executed anyway that they still get to you.  What I really admired was that this didn’t fall into the trap of more recent “horror” movies of just going for scare after scare, squeam after squeam, organ after organ, focusing more on build-up and suspense, which makes this movie’s more traditional jump-out-and-scare-you moments (of which there’re plenty) all the more effective.

The beginning is, of course, completely benign, as Ángela, the reporter, does her piece in the fire department, documenting the boring, everyday lives of firefighters, and it’s everything you’d expect: they just sit around waiting for the call eating dinner or playing basketball, she acts all impressed and ditzy, they hit on her and act tough, until the call comes in of an old woman trapped in her apartment.  That’s to be expected, and certainly makes it all seem more real, but I really liked how following the initial scares, there’s plenty of down time, as Ángela and the tenants and scant firefighters and police are trapped in the building and simply try to make heads or tales of the situation.  No scares or anything, just them talking about the possibilities of why this is happening, as Pablo the cameraman films discussions or Ángela interviews the terrified tenants (if not for the craziness to follow, Ángela could’ve accidentally stumbled onto the story of a lifetime with this, and her career could’ve been made).  Even as the initial victims lay unconscious on that table, bite marks and all, and you know they aren’t gonna stay immobile for long , you wait and wait and wait but nothing happens but fear-driven speculation from our trapped people, while that knot in your stomach grows tighter and you’re praying for some bloody, scarred zombie to rise up and start chasing people just to ease the tension.  That’s great, and damn-near agonizing, suspense, when typical horror movie conventions have ingrained in your head exactly what’s gonna happen, and you just wait and wait without relief,  and really, the whole waiting game is what you’d expect to happen in real life during a rabid zombie quarantine, if something like a rabid zombie quarantine could actually happen.  Brings you more into the moment, puts you in there with those people (and the acting’s actually good!  Everybody – Ángela, the off-screen Pablo, tenants, police, firefighters – they all evoke first annoyance, then bewilderment, then despair, then downright panic, really, really well and convincingly).

Which is why it’s a bit of a shame that it seems like the directors felt the need to balance out that long period of straight-up suspense and waiting with what follows, as we get an absolute shit-storm of the undead/rabid/rage-filled/whatever they are jumping out of corners and chasing what few survivors remain.  This is fun and all, but the shock factor wears off after a while, as the directors try to balance out nothingness with, well, everything-ness, to the point that I might’ve been getting a kick out of monster after monster jumping out of corners and chasing people for the wrong reasons, like it was unintentionally funny (to this movie’s credit, though, there’re definitely moments of the camera going in every which direction as Pablo runs for his life, which would make any moviegoer nauseated and is done really for no other reason than to make it more ‘real’ but is just more annoying then everything, but for the most part everything’s framed very nicely, almost like our Pablo is an on-the-spot cinematographer rather than a news cameraman.  It’s a good, non-distracting example of the first-person horror thing that raises it above the level of mere gimmick, so that the focus can be more on the looks of terror on the survivors’ faces or getting the perfect framing so that you’re set up perfectly to shit yourself when the little girl is just standing there following a camera pan or you get perfect execution of a monster jumping out of a corner or out of the shadows).   Oh well, point is it was fun, even if this action-packed segment went in a completely different direction than the suspense-oriented segments that came before (and admittedly, following that endless build-up, the movie might actually have needed a barrage of monsters like this – massive tension should naturally give way to massive release, so that all might’ve been unjust criticism on my part ).

That is, until the big climax in a place and and a situation we didn’t see coming.  HO-LY-FUCK-ING-SHIT, this was scary as hell.  The quasi-plot twist that tries to explain the infestation in, of all things, religious terms is pretty lame (but kinda cool…), but the whole combination of setting (reminiscent of John Doe’s apartment in Se7en), night vision, heavy breathing, inserting a camera into a crawlspace and panning it around to see what’s in there, the horror movie equivalent of a video game’s final boss, and things that go bump in the night, all rife for lameness and cliché, come together perfectly.  I was in the fetal position when nothing was happening, just about shitting myself when stuff suddenly happened.  The first half of this movie was about suspense and the agonizing wait for something to happen, the second half about the unrelenting release of that tension and shit flying off the wall, but that ending combined both those elements into one incredible, terrifying whole.  This was awesome.  I had to turn my light on and off about 20 times as I was trying to go to sleep to make sure a rabies zombie wasn’t gonna get me, and I’m not afraid to admit it.

…yes I am

8/10

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