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Rec (2008, Spain)

01/03/2011

Directors: Juame Balaguero, Paco Plaza       Starring: Manuela Velasco, Ferran Terraza, Jorge-Yamam Serrano

I first saw Rec a couple of years ago, when it first came out on DVD. Due to the recent acqusition of the sequel on Blu Ray, a sequel that picks up fifteen minutes after the action of the first film ends, I felt it was time to give it another spin partially to refresh my memory but also because it’s a great excuse to watch it again. It is after all that rarest of things – a “found footage” horror film that is both well filmed and scary.

The premise is simple. TV presenter Angela (Manuela Velasco) and her cameraman Pablo (Pablo Rosso) are on assignment covering the duties of a Barcelona fire crew during the night shift. They get called to assist an elderly resident of an apartment block who has become trapped in her home. When they arrive on the scene it soon becomes apparent that there is something far more sinister at play than an unfortunate, infirm old lady needing help. As the scene descends into chaos, the residents discover that they’ve been sealed in the building by some very nervous authorities and what should have been a routine piece of reporting turns into a fight for survival.

It’s difficult to say much more than that without spoiling things. If I wanted to be lazy I could call it Blair Witch meets 28 Days Later (lots of people do) but that is actually misleading. Yes, it’s got psychotically infected “zombies” but comparisons to Blair Witch fail miserably to do justice to the actually rather skilled camera work. Although it is clearly staged in a documentary style it’s been done thoughtfully, carefully staging the shots to add to the atmosphere rather than just waving a camcorder about randomly. It creates opportunities for the scenario to unfold outwith the concentration of the characters but in full view of us as threat and menace boils over in the background while the protagonists bicker amongst themselves in a panic. The handheld camera work also adds to the sense of chaos and confusion as the situation deteriorates for the hapless inhabitants of the apartment block, dropping you right in the middle of the action. It’s disorientating in the exhilarating sense of the word and one of the few examples where this style of filming actually adds to the experience instead of distracting from it.

Unusually for me I found the cast of characters mostly sympathetic, thanks almost entirely to the performances. I think it must be pretty hard to maintain that level of frantic, terrified panic as an actor and they do the job admirably. Everyone is decidedly “normal” looking, rather than looking like models from the plastic surgeons catalogue. This is essential in breaking down the barriers to the film being convincing. With picture perfect Hollywood hair and teeth it would be far less convincing (there is an American remake called Quarantine that I have never seen and never intend to that presumably proves this point), here the residents of the apartment are decidedly average looking and even Angela, a professional TV reporter, looks like a normal human being rather than a well polished model. It’s refreshing and impressive and helps you actually care about their fate and that is pivotal to the film’s success and it is a success. A resounding one and one that I highly recommend.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. 03/03/2011 21:49

    Rec is a lot of fun indeed. If anything the sequel is better. It takes a surprising turn, and it doesn’t hang about either!

    Muy bien.

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