Quarantine (2008)

<strong class="MovieTitle">Quarantine</strong> (2008)

(On DVD, December 2009) Taken on its own terms, Quarantine is a pretty good horror film: Original, tense and effective enough to distinguish itself from so many forgettable bloody movies.  If you’re lucky enough to come across the film completely cold, without any prior knowledge whatsoever, go and have a good time.  Unfortunately, two things killed much of Quarantine for me: the knowledge that it was a remake of a Spanish horror film called Rec and the film’s entire promotional strategy.  If you’ve seen the trailer’s final moments, its poster or even the cover of the DVD, then you have already seen the very last shot of the film –and you will be waiting for it!  Having deliberately seen Rec moments before watching Quarantine, I spent most of my time during the second film trying to spot and analyse the differences between the two –a task simplified by Quarantine’s perfectly justified decision to ape almost every single shot in the original and add to it.  To spoil my conclusions, they boil down to “overproduction”:  The sparse and clean elegance of Rec has been overlaid with a far busier lighting scheme and constant sound effects.  Helicopters shine spotlights and roar outside the building, adding to the creaking pipes that create much of the film’s soundscape.  Elsewhere, Quarantine’s bigger budget has both good, neutral and bad impacts:  Extra scenes have been added to flesh out existing and new characters, which doesn’t add or remove anything, except when Rec’s meticulously calculated rising tension is suddenly disrupted by two sudden deaths (the elevator attack and the death-by-camera) that feel too gruesome for where the plot is at that moment.  More happily, Quarantine gets to include two shots that should have been in the original film: A fleeting look at the situation outside, as well as a staircase fall that seems perfectly well-integrated in the action.  It all amounts to a fair remake, both taking and adding to the original without necessarily “betraying” anything: I may have been disappointed by some additions, but it’s very recognizably the same film with the same strengths, up to a point where Quarantine has few surprises for fans of the original.  The DVD contains an entertaining director/producer’s commentary and instructive making-of features that detail the film’s intense production scheme, it also wilfully avoids even mentioning Rec anywhere –an omission that becomes particularly maddening when it comes the time to discuss the story’s origin and the tweaks made for the American version.  Booo!

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