John Erick Dowdle
Jennifer Carpenter - Angela Vidal
Steve Harris - Scott Percival
Jay Hernandez - Jake
Johnathon Schaech - George Fletcher
Columbus Short - Danny Wilensky
Greg Germann - Laurence
Dania Ramirez - Sadie
Genre - Horror/POV
Running Time - 89 Minutes
Score - 3 Howls Outta 4
Ever since the massive success of THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT back in 1999 [was it that long ago? God!], POV horror has become all the rage. It started out pretty slow, but once the YouTube generation kicked in, there seems to be no stopping it. This year alone we've had two American horror flicks that used the POV thing to varied success - George A. Romero's DIARY OF THE DEAD and CLOVERFIELD. Now we have QUARANTINE, which seems to want to continue on the success wave that CLOVERFIELD stepped off of.
QUARANTINE is a remake of a Spanish-language film that's not available in the U.S. yet called [REC]. Since mainstream America doesn't want to watch horror films with subtitles due to laziness or maybe just a low level of literacy, Hollywood decided to...what else...remake [REC] and put its spin on the story while maintaining most of the sequences from the original version. While it's not as good or as exciting as CLOVERFIELD was earlier in the year or a trailblazer like THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT was almost 10 years ago, QUARANTINE is still an effective horror flick that should please most horror fans disillusioned with the current American horror scene.
Angela Vidal (Jennifer Carpenter) is some TV host for a show called "Night Shift". In this edition of her show, Angela and her faithful cameraman, Scott (Steve Harris), hang out with an overnight fireman crew in Los Angeles. For about 15 minutes, we watch Angela interact with the fire department, especially two firemen named Jake (Jay Hernandez) and Fletcher (Johnathon Schaech). As Angela and the firemen begin to bond, there's a call at a station about some old apartment building where its residents heard some screams coming from some elderly woman's apartment. The fire department and the police arrive at the scene, where they enter to find the old woman not making a lot of sense and foaming at the mouth. It doesn't help that she has blood all over her either. Out of nowhere, she attacks one of the policemen and rips some flesh before killing her.
Getting everyone out of their apartments and attempting to leave the building, Angela and the rest soon learned that the Center of Disease Control has locked the building down in a state of quarantine. With no way to get out, those inside the building must deal with infected and rabid humans who want nothing more than to kill and spread the disease.
This is sort of a hard review to write because I was very excited about watching QUARANTINE and after watching it, I felt a bit disappointed. It's a good horror flick, don't get me wrong, but I guess I was expecting more out of it. It's an intense film and there were moments where I did jump or feel creeped out, but it's the kind of film that works better if you don't know much about it. I tried not to let it effect me, but knowing what the original was about and then seeing the previews multiple times for QUARANTINE that pretty much give away the entire film [and I'm being absolutely serious] made the film lose much of its effectiveness. I think what made CLOVERFIELD and THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT work so well was because while there was hype that may have overshadowed these films, at least there were still a level of mystery and intrigue since not everything was given away via the trailers. I don't blame the film itself for this. I blame the film studio for lowering the mystery factor because it effected me while I was watching it. Still, QUARANTINE is a film that's worthy of more than a watch because it sets out to creep people out and manages to do it on a certain level.
I've never seen [REC] but I heard the two stories are pretty much the same. It's really not a complicated horror flick. Take 28 DAYS LATER and mix it with NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD pretty much - meaning a bunch of people arguing on how to survive while they deal with infected people of some virus that's barely explained until the last few minutes of the film. While the main plot is great, the whole virus thing seems like an afterthought until the end to explain what's really going on. I think it has something to do with homemade biochemical warfare or some kind of cult or something - I don't really know. I'm sure not many people find that important, but I think it could have helped to know the purpose of the virus and how the personnel outside the building knew quickly to quarantine the premises. The reason for a mystery is to be solved and I wasn't really given a conclusive answer. I'm sure a sequel will be made for this where everything will be explained, so that's probably why it wasn't given enough detail. It didn't hurt the film for me [I happen to like not knowing sometimes] but I thought the opportunity was there and not necessarily taken all the way. That's all I'm saying.
QUARANTINE also fails to bring anything new to the table. While still effective as a film, we've pretty much seen this all before. From running infected "zombies", to people who can't get along to face their fears and survive, to people hiding their infection while their allies dwindle in number - the story is pretty cliched. But at least the cliches work here and aren't overdone to make your eyes roll. If it's not broken, don't fix it, right?
I do feel that the ending was a big letdown though. I guess it was the appropriate ending, but it suffered from having it being a major part of the trailer. Why did Screen Gems allow what could have been a very powerful conclusion be seen right in the trailer and the rest of the promotional campaign? That frustrates me because things like that should NEVER happen when you want to sell your film. It cheapens the thrills and the surprise. The whole thing was just fucked up in my opinion.
The gore FX was very cool in QUARANTINE. I couldn't believe that these SFX were actually done "live" and not with some post-production CGI. I was very impressed and you definitely see some gory stuff. I totally bought the violence protrayed in this film.
I wish I could be as nice about the direction by John Erick Dowdle. I understand the whole POV aspect in horror is the "it" thing right now, but this was just too much. The first hour was great and there wasn't alot of shaking going on. But that last half hour almost killed me when the remaining survivors got all frantic and started to run all over the house to hide and escape. It not only makes one dizzy and nauseous, but you don't see a damn thing anyway. I want to watch a horror film to see what's going on. I don't want to see someone running with their camera pointed down so I can watch a blurry sequence of feet running up a flight of stairs. And then it kept turning back and forth and it was just - yeah. I think shaky cam can work. It worked in CLOVERFIELD, the BOURNE films, and even in the HALLOWEEN remake. But there was too much of it here and it took me out of the film rather than putting me in it. Besides that, I liked the direction. Especially the sequence where the camera actually becomes a weapon and takes out one of the infected. But it could have been a bit more subtle. Besides, what sane cameraman would continue to film what happens in this house as they're being viciously hunted down and attacked? People are more professional at their jobs than I thought.
The acting was fantastic though. I really bought what was going on in the house due to the performances from the cast. I'm sure there was a lot of improvisation going on here because sticking to the script wouldn't work here. Jennifer Carpenter, of Dexter and THE EXORCISM OF EMILY ROSE, is very likeable as Angela. She has a playful personality which suddenly changes once she's scared by the events of the house. Carpenter screams and whimpers with the best of them. I totally believed she was scared for her life. Jay Hernandez, of HOSTEL, played the heroic character of Jake. I liked him alot and he gave a natural performance. You could tell the character was scared without him really getting overdramatic. It was a nice performance. Steve Harris, from The Practice, played the cameraman. Harris doesn't really do much until the last half of the film and we get to see his view on the situation. Johnathon Schaech was swarmy as Fletcher. He was sort of playful but in a dickhead sort of way. His performance here was a lot better than in that PROM NIGHT remake. We also had appearances from Ally McBeal's Greg Germann and Heroes' Dania Ramirez as residents of the apartment building. I found everyone in the film to be believeable and they're the main reasons why this remake works as well as it does.
THINGS I'VE LEARNED WHILE WONDERING WHY THIS HICKEY ON MY NECK IS MAKING ME HUNGRY FOR FLESH
- Angela is really excited about doing a segment about firefighters. I guess she needs a hose for her burning bush.
- Every firehouse has a pole hole. Who knew Sienna Miller got around THAT much?
- Angela is a great basketball player. I dig a woman who can juggle a few balls from time to time.
- Many people were trapped inside an apartment building. Must have been near the Church of Scientology. I hear once you enter, you can't leave. It may be just a film for us, but it's real life for Katie Holmes and Suri Cruise.
- Mrs. Espinoza tore a chunk out of a cop's neck. I'm not surprised by that actually. Some women just can't enough of ham.
- Johnathon Schaech got brutally attacked and became rabid. First divorcing Christina Applegate, then starring in that horrible PROM NIGHT remake, and now this? Geez, there's so much one man can take in one year!
- An infected dog mauled some poor bastard. Sometimes life is a bitch!
- Don't drill a dude when he's unconscious. He'll bite your head over it when he wakes up. Literally.
- A little girl bit a black cop. Just like Kim Kardashian, she prefers dark meat.
THE FINAL HOWL
QUARANTINE is one of the better horror films of 2008, but that really isn't saying a whole lot. While the marketing approach is definitely questionable and the direction a bit disorienting, QUARANTINE is definitely worth checking out if it's still in theaters or for a better bet, on DVD when it's released next year. If you can waste money on SAW V or THE HAUNTING OF MOLLY HARTLEY, you can definitely spend cash on a way better film like QUARANTINE. Just bring some motion sickness pills before you do.