If you walk into “Quarantine” and have no clue that it’s a remake of the 2007 Spanish horror film “Rec” I would excuse your shortcomings just this once. “Rec” has never officially been released in America theatrically or on DVD. It’s a shame, too, since “Rec” is one of the best and scariest horror films of the last 20 years.
When I first heard that “Rec” was already being remade (the film was released on Nov. 23 of 2007 in Spain) I almost couldn’t believe it. Do these quick buck making film producers really think Americans are that stupid? Are we that stupid? Are we unable to coherently watch a film and read subtitles at the same time? I’ll speak only for myself in saying that I have no trouble doing two things with my brain at once. Instead of simply bringing the masterpiece that “Rec” is overseas to American audiences, director John Erick Dowdle decided to Americanize the film by shifting location to Los Angeles and wiping the subtitles clean off the bottom of the screen.
“Quarantine” follows news reporter Angela Vidal and her cameraman Scott on their overnight coverage of the local fire department. A routine medical call finds them trapped inside an apartment building where a deadly and vicious infection is spreading.
As a whole, “Quarantine” is largely identical to “Rec”. Many scenes and lines of dialogue were indeed lifted straight from the Spanish film. Nonetheless, Dowdle adds enough of his own moments to give the film his own touch and its own identity. The question is, is it a good identity?
The first immediate comparison between “Quarantine” and “Rec” is in the acting. Jennifer Carpenter’s performance as reporter Angela Vidal pales in comparison to Manuela Velasco’s convincing performance in the original. Instead of coming off as a true reporter, Carpenter’s giggly character just reminds me that I’m watching a film with a few bad actors. It doesn’t help the viewer get captured in the intended realism of the film. This holds steady when the terror and intensity get turned up a few notches. Carpenter’s overacting is among the worst I’ve seen in a long time. I understand she is supposed to be freaked out, a damsel in distress of sorts, but she’s so incredibly bad at it. She single handedly tries to kill all the suspense the film has.
Luckily for Dowdle, he is able to overcome Carpenter’s plague of bad acting. Much like the original, “Quarantine” is intense, frantic, claustrophobic and filled with creepy atmospheric tone. In particular, the film’s final act is an all out visceral assault of non stop action. One problem for Dowdle that spawns from said intensity is his poor handling of shaky cam. As with any first person film, when things get crazy things get shaky. The duo of directors behind “Rec” were able to absolutely perfect the technique. Dowdle on the other hand seemed to be all over the place with unstable camerawork.
With these complaints and my “remakes are bad” sentiments you might think I’m saying “Quarantine” is a poor film. It’s not. As a piece of art, it lacks some creativity due to its carbon copy style. As entertainment, it’s a very enjoyable ride of terror. If your thing is gore, they’ve got it. If your thing is jumpy scares, they’ve got it. What they don’t have is an improvement over the masterful “Rec”.
That said, I highly recommend to anyone looking to see a horror film in theaters this Halloween that isn’t the fifth installment of “Saw” to see “Quarantine” as you would be hard pressed to find something better. Fans of “Rec” should still be able to enjoy the remake but won’t find it as great as they’ll be able to foresee almost every shock moment and will easily be able to nitpick the film to death. Dowdle avoids reaching the level of complete American stupidity like most directors of horror remakes do and is able to craft a tense and satisfying copycat of a brilliant foreign masterpiece that is better than most modern American horror films.