Sunday 20 October 2019

Movie Review: REC (2007)

A found footage zombie horror movie, REC confines the action to a small and cramped building and effectively cranks up the tension to demented levels.

In Barcelona, television reporter Angela (Manuela Velasco) and her cameraman Pablo are covering a typical evening at a firehall when they join a crew responding to an emergency call about an agitated woman. Once at the apartment building they connect with a couple of police officers and enter the woman's unit. The crazed woman violently attacks and bites the neck of one of the police officers.

With all the concerned residents now congregated in the lobby, Angela, Pablo and firefighter Manu (Ferrán Terraza) learn the building has been surrounded and quarantined by the authorities for undisclosed reasons. The night gets worse when another firefighter falls into the lobby from a great height also suffering from a bloody neck wound. As they await rescue Angela interviews the terrified and confused residents, including a mother and her young daughter battling tonsillitis. But when a health inspector enters the building in a hazmat suit, things get a lot worse.

A Spanish production, REC is a taut 78 minutes of zombie thrills captured on a television reporter's camera. After a deliberately paced opening, co-directors Jaume Balagueró and Paco Plaza risk inducing nausea due to excessive jerkiness, but effectively convey a claustrophobic environment where victims are trapped between faceless figures of authority on the outside and blood sucking maniacs roaming the halls inside.

All the action is viewed through Pablo's lens, with Angela serving as guide and narrator to a night spiralling from bland journalistic normalcy to rumblings of horror. Balagueró and Plaza cleverly maintain interest by introducing calm-before-the-storm interviews between Angela and the residents to round out the assembled victims-to-be. Once the killings start, the wobbly camera movement provides disturbing snippets of a hell unleashed.

If the middle act is a routine if effective kill fest, the climax finds another level altogether. As hope fades and more residents become victims then spring back to zombified life as assailants, the camera loses resources. The survivors are eventually forced to resort to night vision mode to try and find a way out, the field of view darker and narrower, the details of friend or foe compromised as the chilling origins of the infection mystery step into murky view.

What REC lacks in originality it makes up for in potent brevity. These neck munchers don't mess around with games, warnings or slow walking. And with the building in lockdown and nowhere to hide, the horrific action lunges straight for the jugular.


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