When a late night television show goes on a ride along with some of Barcelona’s local fire fighters they get more than they bargained for when they find themselves locked inside a quarantined apartment building with tenants affected by a virus that makes them both rabid and very hungry. Filmed point of view, shaky cam style.

This is another movie that’s going to get arguments started about whether or not it’s a true zombie flick since technically the virus infected tenants of our sealed up apartment building aren’t actually dead. They are more akin to 28 Days Later zombies (that’s right, I called them zombies too). Many of them sure as hell seemed dead to me, one of them was even able to take bullet after bullet before finally going down, and (mini spoiler alert) in the sequel, REC 2, they have to be shot in the head to be put down permanently, but no, they aren’t the reanimated dead as many zombie purist would demand they be. Would I personally call them zombies? Yes, I would call them zombie myself. Maybe not undead zombies, but zombies none the less. Then again, I have a much broader definition of what constitutes a zombie. Let’s just say, I’d chow down on some flesh with these guys any day.

Our first person, found footage type of film begins with a television program called “While You Sleep” filming at a Barcelona fire station. Things are mostly quiet until a call comes in from a nearby apartment building and a unit is dispatched with the film crew tagging along. Upon arrival they find that the call was made because a woman was heard screaming upstairs, and the terrified tenants, all gathered in the main hall downstairs, were unsure what to do, so they called the authorities. Two police officers already on the scene are waiting for the dispatched firemen at the woman’s door and neither officer is very happy about the TV host and her cameraman trailing behind but decide to tolerate the two anyways. They break down the door to find their target standing around in a confused state, seemingly unaware of their presence. When the rescue workers go to help the poor, confused woman she suddenly turns feral and rips a chunk off from one of the officer’s faces before everyone can escape the room. They attempt to get the injured officer medical help but find that The Ministry of Health has sealed off the entire building, trapping the gathered group of tenants, the rescue workers, the TV host, and her camera man inside. They are all warned that a virus must be quarantined inside the apartment, and though the Ministry tries to downplay the virus’ effect, our terrified victims have already seen its effects. Should someone become infected, they are changed into ravenous, mindless hunger bots intent only on feeding on the uninfected and spreading the virus further. As the Ministry attempts to reassure those trapped that there is nothing to worry about, more and more of those inside fall victim to the deadly virus and before daybreak there may not be anyone left for the Ministry to save.


{That old lady is having way too much fun to be in a quarantined building}

I’m not usually much of a fan of the whole “found footage” point of view genre. Out of the many, many additions to it, most are terrible, cheap attempts at a quick buck, and it shows. Not to mention the fact that the camera bobbing all over the place like a hooker on holiday makes me sick. I understand that the shaky cam is supposed to bring a level of realism and further drag the viewer into the film, but it just makes me queasy. I’ve seen so many of these type of films, and I’ve almost always been disappointed, if not downright angry that I wasted my time. So why do I keep watching them if I’m obviously not a big fan, that’s where the “almost always” part comes in to play. Done right, it can be an amazing experience when someone making the film actually puts in the work to do it right without getting too blinded by the dollar signs in their eyes promising easy money. There are a few examples of great POV movies, Paranormal Entity (yes, it’s a rip-off of Paranormal Activity, but it’s so much better), The Last Exorcism (with the exception of the last five minutes which killed the rest of the movie, I try and pretend I live in a world where it didn’t end that way), Death of a Ghost Hunter, Man Bites Dog (and it’s American counterpart Leslie Vernon: Rise of the Mask), Chronicle, and now I can add REC to that list as well.


{If I’m ever in this type of situation, I’m shooting the kids first, nothing good ever comes from having kids in a horror type situation}

The thing REC does so perfectly that it makes it shine among the others listed above is how well it handles tension. Up until the point when things begin to go crazy, it’s pretty light. They do a few interviews at the fire station, head out to the apartment building, and go up to the room, nothing major. Then you see the woman just standing in the room, confused and unresponsive to the rescue worker, and the hairs on the back of your neck suddenly stand up as you know things are about to take a turn, which they do in a heartbeat. Once she attacks the police officer, the tension never lets up and that tension mounts and mounts until the film’s conclusion, about the only time you’ll finally be able to exhale a sigh. I actually found myself leaning forward in my seat several times during the film. The fact that the camera is steady certainly helped the tension as you didn’t constantly see the screen bouncing everywhere, not that visibility is always great. The lighting goes out at one point and not everything is illuminated, this gave the film a very ominous feeling that added much to the tension, but still, the camera remains steady for the most part (except when they are running of course). There’s also the fact that we never see our camera man, not once in the film will you see his face, you might see his body a few times, but his face is constantly off camera. I thought that gave the film a more personal feel, as if it was you, the viewer, holding the camera. It was a smart choice in my opinion.


{Always remember, if you’re to chain a woman to a staircase, make sure you aren’t going to have to get past her later}

The actors helped to add a lot to the realism themselves thanks to the fact that none of them ever had an entire script. They were all only given bits and pieces so that they never knew exactly what was coming at them from scene to scene. It made the actors seriously apprehensive on screen as none ever knew their full fates. There are even scenes I won’t ruin for you where their reactions of fear and surprise are quite real as the director wouldn’t let them know something was going to happen, he’d just do it, and it caused very real reactions of fear from the actors. In fact, the end of the movie takes place in total darkness with only the night vision of the camera to show what’s going on, and the set is really in complete darkness so that the actors are having trouble seeing what was happening. Keep in mind as well, they only had the barest hints of the script to guide them so not only could the actors see nothing, but they weren’t completely aware ahead of time about what the director would be throwing at them. My only complaint might be that actress Manuela Velasco (portraying TV host Angela and an actual television host in Spain) can get on your nerves at times with her incessant need to talk. She rarely, if ever, shuts up, even when it would be in her best interest to keep her mouth shut.


{Trust me, her screaming and crying is actually less annoying than how she acts the rest of the film}

The zombies themselves (or infected if you prefer) were well done as well, with the make up looking top notch, the gore effects looked great, and the blood flows pretty heavily. Well, when you can see it anyways. Once the lighting goes out it’s hard to see much of the talented work, which is a shame since it was so well done. That being said, the previously mentioned tension wouldn’t have been so high if the lighting hadn’t gone dim, so it’s a trade off, but a worthwhile one.


{Ummm, maybe it’s a good thing the lights go out}

This is definitely one of the better found footage movies out there, I’d put it easily in my top five if not higher. If you’re a fan of the genre and looking for one that stands out then REC is for you.


The Undead Review


Directed By: Jaume Balaguero (Darkness, Fragile) and Paco Plaza (Romasanta: The Werewolf Hunter, REC 2)

Starring: Manuela Velasco (El club de los suicidas, REC 2, REC 4, also an actual TV host), Ferran Terrraza (Dissection of a Storm, The Nameless), and Pablo Rosso

Released By: Castelao Producciones and Filmax

Release Year: 2007

Release Type: Theatrical Release

MPAA Rating: Rated R

About The Undead Review

When I was alive I was an asshole and after I died remained pretty much the same, if not a little worse. You’d think becoming a member of the walking dead would mellow a person out, no more worrying about awkward small talk with people, no more having to be politically correct, and the entire world is your upright, bipedal buffet. Don’t get me wrong, it’s fun as hell to be a zombie, just somewhat irritating at times, especially those times you have to watch a lame movie or read a lame book. Thankfully, when I am forced to watch these films or read those books, I’ve got places like The Undead Review to bitch and moan to my heart’s content. {When he’s not devouring the living or sinking his teeth into a good film The Undead Review (Andy Taylor) spends his time writing his own stories or hunting down the paranormal. Oh, and did we mention his blind dog once saved the world?)
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One Response to REC

  1. Pingback: Quarantine | UNDEAD REVIEW

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