Quarantine (2008)

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*. Let’s get this out of the way: It’s not as good as Rec. But then, since Rec was one of the best horror films of the early 2000s that’s not surprising.
*. It was a very, very fast remake. In fact, the North American release of Rec was delayed so this movie could come out first. Is that why there’s so little acknowledgement of the original in the supporting material? It’s downright weird hearing the producers on the commentary and in the “making of” featurette talking about creative decisions that are in fact just things that are copied from Rec (like who designed the apartment building, or the look of the thin man at the end).
*. In fact, this is so weird I think it bears repeating. In the full-length audio commentary by the co-writers and producer-director team (a pair of brothers) there is no mention made of the fact that this is a remake. In the “making of” featurette there is no mention of Rec. Was this for legal reasons? I don’t understand.
*. Was a sequel necessary? Probably not, but I’m sure the calculation was that it would make more money if they moved the story from Barcelona to L.A. Aside from that, however, there is little that is added (though some things are changed, and I’ll get to them later). Usually American remakes up the budget and production values significantly. Think of Ringu vs. The Ring. But here you can look at these two movies back to back and be hard pressed to see which one was more expensive. Personally, I think Rec looks better.
*. Things get off to a rough start as Jennifer Carpenter is quite unconvincing as Angela Vidal. Admittedly Manuela Velasco was spectacular in Rec, and had the added advantage of actually being a television host, but Carpenter should have been able to pull off this intro better. I never had the feeling I was actually watching a television program.
*. The producers were given a coherent, non-idiot plot. They then proceeded to make it stupid. Why, after young Briana has turned into a rabid animal who is clearly a threat to everyone’s survival, are they so intent on saving her? They’ve already been told there is no curing her. They know how dangerous she is. Yet Jake the fireman and Danny the cop go after her as though she’s a little lost puppy, with predictable results. I understand no one wants to kill a child, but their behaviour here is beyond stupid.

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*. If the infected aren’t superhuman, how does Mrs. Espinoza come back from those two body shots?
*. Are the rats in the attic on some kind of automatic feeding system? Because it doesn’t look like the skinny dude has been giving them any food for a while.
*. What year is this? The attic lab is filled with newspaper clippings and paper files, but there’s no sign of a computer. The only technology is an old reel-to-reel tape machine, a museum piece by twenty-first century standards.
*. Of course the big shift here is one of sensibility. The demonic possession business in Rec has been jettisoned and what we’re left with is a souped-up strain of rabies that acts sort of like the Rage virus in 28 Days Later.
*. Jaume Balagueró, who co-wrote and directed the Rec series, was disappointed. “It’s impossible for me to like [Quarantine], because it’s a copy. It’s the same, except for the finale. It’s impossible to enjoy Quarantine after Rec. I don’t understand why they avoided the religious themes; they lost a very important part of the end of the movie.”
*. Why did they avoid the religious theme? Obviously Spain is a country with a more deeply engrained religious sensibility because of its history, but the U.S. is a crazy country too when it comes to religion, and spiritual terrors have always sold well to American audiences (you need look no further than The Exorcist).
*. I think they felt they didn’t need the religious angle. And truth be told, this movie makes a lot more sense. But despite being more credible, I find it less creepy than Rec. Maybe it’s just the uncertainty principle. I really didn’t like what happened to the Rec series after the first film, in part because I thought it ended on such a wonderfully dark and mysterious note. Here there’s none of that. We know (or think we know) what’s going to happen to Angela: she’s going to be killed and eaten by a starving, feral humanoid.
*. Speaking of that humanoid, I didn’t think the thin man was as scary as the emaciated hag in Rec. Is that because old women’s bodies are scarier than old men’s? Well, maybe. Horror taps into the lizard brain in all of us and you have to honestly consider such things, as unpleasant as they may be.

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