Sunday, February 26, 2017

Quarantine



Coming from a big fan of the Spanish ∆trapped in building, unable to get out∆ [•REC] movies, by the very talented filmmakers, Balaguero and Plaza, I was a bit miffed like other folks about Hollywood remaking yet another hit cult horror film that received a lot of buzz. This one, Quarantine (2008), isn't too shabby, though. It follows the general outline of its inspiration and it's structure is similar. •Through the eyes of the camera• is the approach such a standard now in the found footage genre, and Jennifer Carpenter is the lead we follow throughout. She's this news journalist with cameraman doing a story on city firemen, accompanying one truck outfit to a distress call in an apartment complex.



I always seem to preface these movies by saying: yes, the cam goes through the ringer. Lighting, especially towards the end, and the camera’s eye glimpses what is in front of it than more than any capturing of mise-en-scène. This isn’t about visual stimuli. It isn’t about methodical slow burn. This is edited to be immediate. Sure there is more time in the firehouse than what is shown. But the editing does seem to indicate those kinds of cuts to chop out the mundane. Carpenter is all smiles, full of charm and appeal, obviously beaming that personality that cries for a potential anchor position eventually. These pieces are to get her towards that goal. Well, I think it is safe to say that goes to shit. Jay Hernandez is the “lead fireman” (Jonathan Schaech doesn’t quite make it, to put it mildly), hero for a majority (at least he’s responsible for Carpenter and her camera operator remaining safe until the very end when he’s removed from the picture) of the time, who, along with cop Columbus Short, tries to protect those in an apartment complex and fight away the eventual onslaught of rabid “rabies” infected tenants, modeled, it seems, from those blood and flesh thirsty “zombies” from 28 Days Later. I think the film’s claustrophobia—its python-squeezing, unrelenting tightening of places to run—is a major asset in its favor. I think the ever-worsening situation as the virus usurps the innocent until only two remain, thanks in no small part to the quarantine by those outside of the complex who won’t allow anyone to leave/escape, is successfully presented…there’s no reason to think anyone is making it out of that building alive. Carpenter, so enthusiastic and full of spirit, is hyperventilating and wrought with anxiety and terror by film’s end. Her horror is well established by the direction in the film…the diverse collection of tenants eventually wind up scattering infected flesh-eaters, in full pursuit of anything living and breathing. That would be Carpenter and Steve Harris looking down the serpentine stair well as the viral dead growl (their flesh shades of gray), rushing towards those uninfected. Good cast with the likes of Greg Germann (as a vet trying to doctor humans infected), Denis O’Hare as this troublesome tenant who is unruly and at odds with Short, Rade Šerbedžija as a Serbian tenant offering escape routes always undermined by the SWAT posted at every one of them, Bernard White as a doc selling drugs out of his apartment, Dania Ramirez and Elaine Kagan as female tenants in the building, and Marin Hinkle as the mom soon bitten by her infected daughter. Those uninfected split apart by chaos caused by the rabid dead leads to the whole apartment complex infested. The virus’ reason for existing in the complex gets answered when Carpenter and Harris find themselves at the very top of the building, intruding upon the responsible party’s lair…this final area of the building Carpenter and Harris can run into as the rest of the space is cut off from them. The final image of Carpenter dragged away into the darkness (something repeated since in Found Footage) was given away in commercials for the film! So the impact of it was muted.

While the zombies in the film (or whatever you want to call them) aren't original (or their cause, quite frankly), the adrenaline rush of the attempts to quell the viral outbreak and then the fleeing the danger pursuing those not yet infected, the dread that builds due to the quarantine and infected count rising, the rapid attacks of the infected giving our heroes little time to defend themselves, and the intensity of the impending doom that seems all-encompassing provide Quarantine with enough positives to not feel like this was a total waste of time. Sure you could say [•REC] and its sequels offer horror fans so much more, but at least I think Quarantine compensates for its "thievery" by maintaining a pace that lags little, giving us a presentation that ratchets up the nightmarish shocks and unyielding hell that perpetrates without fail our heroes until there's no one left.


** ½

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