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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 27.59%
Average: 0%
Pretty Bad: 10.34%
Total Crap: 0%

3 reviews, 11 user ratings

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by Jay Seaver

"Horror caught on tape much better than it usually is."
4 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2008 FANTASIA FESTIVAL: Sometimes it's good to believe the hype. One of the perils of going to festivals is that I know I'm going to be writing reviews of the movies I see, and I jump the gun trying to analyze the film while it's still going, even though you can't properly do that without having it in its entirety. Throw in that "[REC]" has been receiving a ton of praise, and it's perhaps not surprising that I spent a good chunk of the movie wondering what the big deal was. So my jumping out of the seat by the end was somewhat contaminated by "aaaah, that's it!".

[REC] opens with Angela Vidal (Manuela Velasco) introducing herself as the host of a news/reality program called "while you were asleep". For this week's episode, she's going to tag along and document the Barcelona Fire Department. Most of what they do isn't actually fighting fires; it's handling broken water mains, animal rescue, and the like. Tonight's first call has them going to a small apartment building where screams have come from the apartment of an old lady who lives alone with her cats; when they get there, they find a dead girl on the floor. The woman is practically feral, actually biting one of the police officers who joined the firemen. Before they can get him to an ambulance, though, the find there are government people sealing off the building, not giving any information to the panicked residents, and the bitten cop's partner is expected to take control despite not knowing any more than anyone else.

The Blair Witch project wasn't the first "horror verité" film, but it is the one that triggered the ones of varying quality since. [REC] makes the gimmick work better than most; even if Angela initially seems more "on-air personality" than reporter, it makes a certain amount of sense for her and cameraman Pablo (cinematographer Pablo Rosso) to keep shooting once the crazy stuff starts happening, and the enclosed building is tight enough quarters that just dropping the camera and running wouldn't help that much. More so than with many films of this type, the filmmakers make the "found footage" conceit really make sense.

That doesn't mean that they don't still occasionally fall victim to some of the pitfalls of these films. If Blair Witch or Cloverfield made you nauseous, you're definitely going to want some motion-sickness pills for this one, for instance. The chaotic motion and need to run away means we often have to be satisfied with Angela telling us what's going on because we can't see it clearly, and there's a certain amount of repetition at points that occasionally make what is a pretty short film feel padded: We go through the "turn off the camera" "no!" "turn it off!" "okay, it's off (but not really)" rigmarole more times than necessary, and Angela interviewing the various residents doesn't often tell us much that we haven't already seen or heard.

When [REC] kicks into gear, though, it's all but impossible to deny that what we see has been worth the wait. Just as soon as we've gotten the exposition that gives us hints at what has been going on in the outside world to necessitate sealing the building off, the filmmakers quickly and brutally cut the cast down to a more manageable size from the dozen or so it had been hovering at. There's plenty of shocks to make the audience jump and scream, some very nasty injuries and deaths, and a great deal of nerve-rattling tension as Angela and the other survivors try and stay out of sight and one step ahead of the nasty things looking to do them harm and try to escape the building that has become a deathtrap. Perhaps most surprisingly, when we do get explanations, they don't seem particularly forced or (within the context of what we've been watching), absurd. Directors Jaume Balaguero, Paco Plaza, and their co-writer Luis Berdejo may actually find a way to reconcile the science-fictional and supernatural aspects of their monsters, which few of the many who have come before them have managed.

The movie's last act is so good that I almost wish I'd just seen it on a whim, so I could more easily hold my analytical bent at bay until afterward. Even with that going on in my head, though, "[REC]" is still damn good at what it does when it really gets serious.

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originally posted: 07/06/08 01:07:13
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2008 Fantasia Film Festiva For more in the 2008 Fantasia Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

6/01/14 Alex Brilliant. Horrific. Incredibly disturbing. True horror. 5 stars
4/30/13 Marty Zombie movie magic. Great set, terrifying zoms, and a bold ending. loved. 5 stars
3/11/12 Josie Cotton is a goddess Listen to me carefully, folks; there is more to horror than screaming. 2 stars
11/15/11 matthew thompson dalldorf If the shaky, blurry camerawork doesn't make you ill, the excessive screeching will! 2 stars
7/10/10 sarahbr11 Hey guys! I loved the first movie, and the remake Quarantine isn’t bad either, but the sequ 5 stars
10/18/09 Chad Dillon Cooper Good to see an original horror film,insted of a crappy remake. 4 stars
7/25/09 action movie fan very scary rabid person shocker-makes all others seem like 6th grade comedy 4 stars
3/30/09 MP Bartley Short, brutal and nasty. Maximises the formula perfectly. 5 stars
11/03/08 Alex Thorne no word of a lie, the Scariest film i have ever seen. a fine foreign offering 5 stars
9/01/08 kyle ummmmm. no. not worth the free download. 2 stars
4/27/08 Jayme Isaacs Good Movie Highly Recommended 5 stars
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  N/A (NR)
  DVD: 14-Jul-2009

  11-Apr-2008 (18)


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