Monday, October 13, 2008

QUARANTINE (2008)

On the thirteenth day of Halloween, my boo love gave to me ... thirteen drooling, wheezing, and flesh hungry old ladies!

THE CARD:

Dexter’s sister, horny firefighters, pissed-off Dobermans, the gothy-est apartment building in L.A., hideous “kinda”-zombies, another chillingly awesome Doug Jones appearance, and a lack of Dramamine.

More details here.

THE ANGLE:

The movie starts out with no credit sequence and cuts to a woman rehearsing an introduction directly into the camera. Angela Vidal (Jennifer Carpenter) is a news show reporter doing an innocuous day-in-the-life, or in this case a night-in-the-life, piece on the Los Angeles Fire Department. She and her intrepid cameraman team up with a pair of enthusiastic firemen, studly Jake (Jay Hernandez) and leering mustachioed Fletcher (Johnathon Schaech), for a guided tour of the firehouse. Unfortunately for Angela, it's a boring night as the trio play basketball, joke around with equipment, and generally occupy themselves waiting for something to happen. Fortunately, they don't have to wait long and rush to an emergency call at an apartment building where an old woman is apparently injured and screaming. The concerned residents of the building gather in the lobby, panicked at the disturbing sounds of agony emanating from upstairs. The firemen and the police find the old lady in her apartment confused, wheezing, and threatening. She then attacks one of the cops and rips the flesh from his neck and goobles some tasty cop neck goodness. When they try to remove the cop out of the building for medical attention, they suddenly find themselves locked inside by gun-wielding soldiers and the Centers for Disease Control. It quickly becomes apparent that they are facing a virus transmitted through bites from the infected that turns its victims vicious, bloodthirsty, and drooly. Everyone soon panics, mistrust and arguments ensue, people and pets disappear, the body count increases as the virus spreads, and impending feeling of doom is all captured on shaky video. As Angela, Jake, and the cameraman scramble for a way of the building, they stumble across the mystery of the virus, its terrifying origin, and a forgotten tenant wandering in the darkness. Waiting for them.

THE FINISHER:

Let’s dispense with the obligatory Blair Witch Project comparison. Yes, Quarantine is shot from a first person perspective. And yes, the hand-held camerawork may make you a little queasy after a while. And yes, it’s yet another remake of a foreign horror film, in this case Spain’s [REC], which I have not yet seen but plan to do so. So don’t be such a wuss and bitch and whine about presumptive derivation from said Blair Witch, the pitfalls of foreign remakes, and the distancing effects of the documentary style. Quarantine is a spooky, innovative, and suspenseful “zombie” film. The movie's approach increases the sense of immediacy and brings the action to the forefront without the necessity of exposition and story development, which may turn away most filmgoers. But narrative concerns aren't the primary forces at work in Quarantine. Horror fans will delight in the shocks that come at you left and right. Your senses will be assaulted as you squirm in your popcorn and poop your pants (slightly). The editing, lighting, and atmospherics are first-rate and the make-up and effects are impressive. The infected child and the “missing” tenant will keep you looking twice before walking down your apartment building hallway.

Despite a lackluster script, it's evident that director John Erick Dowdle let his actors improvise most of the dialog, which works until the firemen and cops fail to follow any kind of real-life protocol and begin acting like scared ninnies. And you should probably throw logic out the window and don’t question why the cameraman just doesn’t drop the camera and stop shooting. That’s an exercise in futility and you're completely missing the point of this movie. Unfortunately, there’s never enough time devoted to character development. We don't find a reason to care about or empathize for the characters, despite their terrifying dilemma. A particular standout is Carpenter (The Exorcism of Emily Rose) as Angela who despite a lot of exasperating, shrieking, and forced reactions comes off very strong in her first feature film lead role. I can’t tell you how much it deviates from the Spanish original, but it does owe a lot in style, tone, and structure to the more recent American release Cloverfield and probably signals more movies using this approach in different flavors of the horror genre. What's next, a hand-held mummy autopsy, the wolfman's amateur porn, or Transylvania's funniest home videos? Nevertheless, Quarantine is an intense thrill ride, playing out its premise like the ultimate haunted house attraction.

3 comments:

Film Geek Schu said...

After reading Tremendo's review of Quarantine, it is now clear he has taken way too many piledrivers to the noggin. Quarantine is not spooky, it is not innovative, it is barely mildly entertaining. The flaws? Well, for starters the night-in-the-life firefighter lead-in has no purpose in the progression of the film at all. No foreshadowing, no potential firefighter heroics, just 15 minutes of beefcake firefighter fill, which might be fine for El Tremendo, but it certainly doesn't make for good film making. Instead, it comes off more like "we don't have enough material to fill out a feature length flick almost entirely inside one building, so let's pad with something." Let's talk about the lead a bit. Now you'd expect, in a movie like this, for the lead, who is nothing but a fluff reporter, to somehow stand up in a situation of real peril. Instead, she completely melts down and screams in hysterics almost entirely the last half of the film. We want her to die. And how about that tacked on we-have-to-make-up-some-explanation-as-to-why-this-has-happened ending? Forget worrying about its comparisons to Blair Witch, foreign remakes and the distancing effects of documentary style film making. Those would be acceptable if this had a base understanding of actual story structure and some semblance of competence. Quarantine is anything but an intense thrill ride. More accurately, it is among the worst films of the year.
And that's my finisher.

The Internet's El Tremendo said...

Looks like someone needs a hug. Worst movie of the year? No, not even close. Bad story structure? Well, yeah, it's premise is that it's found footage. Expecting Altman? Otherwise, well said, Film Geek Schu. I will let you live.

Gonzilla said...

Is there that part where they go "no no no, keep the cameras rolling", and then something happens that makes the a lot of the people in the movie scream really loud and say stuff like "go go go!", then they start running and the camera work gets all nutty, then they stop and one of the people looks at the camera and whisper something like "what the fuck was that?", then after a beat or two of silence something jumps out and gets one of them, then the chase continues and continues and continues??? If so, I've seen this movie... too many times.