Flashback Reviews: [REC]

Hollywood sure does love its remakes.  I suppose that means moviegoers do as well, but count me out.  Every time a fresh cinematic idea blooms in another country, American movie executives decide it needs to be plucked, re-packaged, and polished for domestic audiences.  Did you know that recent drama “Brothers” was originally a Danish film?  You would be surprised at just how often this process takes place.  [REC] is a taut, economical horror-thriller from Spain that weighs in at a sparse 78 minutes.  The powers-that-be remade the movie a couple of years back and redubbed it “Quarantine.”  Many remakes are made on the grounds that domestic audiences would miss culture-related jokes and details if they watched the original.  Enjoyment of [REC], however, isn’t hidden behind layers of cultural minutiae, and those who don’t mind watching subtitles will find an above average horror film with scares in high supply.

While I can give the film a general thumbs up, [REC] has its fair share of problems.  The first 15 minutes are slow and should have been edited down, but the runtime is already short as it is.  [REC] doesn’t have a particularly long or complicated story to tell, so the strength of the movie can be found in how the story is told.  The opening scenes, for example, do a particularly thorough job of establishing the perspective from which the movie is viewed.  The pace does pick up, and a handful of scenes are truly scary.  In addition, the meager story, rationed out breadcrumb-by-breadcrumb, is interesting and supplies a particularly enjoyable payoff.  The main problem with the plot, however, comes from murky and strange character motivations.  The film has a central mechanism that controls how the story plays out, and too often, characters seem to make choices simply because their actions will play better to this mechanism.  That’s incredibly vague, but c’est la vie…that’s the best I can do.  Suffice it to say, this isn’t the film you pick apart for hours to find rich themes hidden within.  Strictly a popcorn affair.

As to the cinematography, be prepared for scads of shaky-cam work.  If the kiddy coaster at Six Flags makes you lose your lunch, pass this up at the rental store.  That’s not to say that the camera work is shoddy.  It’s actually very well-executed and succeeds in creating the creepy atmosphere and suffocating claustrophobia it strives for.

Judging acting in a foreign film is always a tricky business.  Bad acting often reveals itself through the botching of subtle mannerisms specific to a culture, and I certainly wasn’t raised in Spain.  That said, the acting never took me out of the movie.  In particular, those same first kinda-slow 15 minutes did at least give me the chance to appreciate that even the extras seemed entirely believable.

[REC] won’t change your life, and the subject matter has been done to death.  But if you feel the need for something raw – a horror movie stripped of the sometimes sickening Hollywood sheen – you could do far worse than [REC].  6.5/10

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