Ever since I first heard about it a few weeks back, I've been giving a lot of attention here in the Vault to the intriguing Spanish zombie flick [REC] from directors Jaume Balaguero and Paco Plaza. And now finally, with some help from my now close-personal-friend FANCYMOJO over on the Bloody-Disgusting forums, I have managed to get my grubby hands on it and see it for myself.
There have been quite a few movies that have glutted the market during this whole zombie renaissance of the past few years. But none that I have seen have been as effective, as disturbing and as revolutionary as [REC]. Not 28 Days Later, not Dawn of the Dead, not Land of the Dead. This is, quite frankly, a landmark horror film.
Unfortunately, it won't get the full recognition it deserves because it's not getting a theatrical release here in the States. It will, however, be getting an American remake later this year, much like The Ring. Hopefully, as with that movie's Japanese inspiration Ringu, [REC] will reach the audience it should via DVD, and get the attention it deserves as a genre movie of major importance.
Now I'm gonna put myself out there for possible ridicule. I'm a seasoned horror-viewing pro. I don't get spooked all that easily. Yet I will unashamedly admit that as I sat there alone in the dark of my living room watching this thing, I had to pause it a few times to catch my breath. I yelled profanities at the screen. I even got up to turn on a couple lights.
Folks, this is the kind of stuff I would do while watching Night of the Living Dead in my parent's basement as a kid. In the intro to this very site, I talk about my experience of watching The Exorcist at eight years old. I also recall the first time I saw the original Dawn of the Dead when I was 15, and it haunted me for weeks after. Well, this movie brought it all back to me.
And I'm not the only sissy. Check out these live audience reactions from the Catalonian International Film Festival in Sitges, Spain:
From what I understand of the international horror scene, Balaguero and Plaza did not exactly have a sterling reputation, and therefore not much was expected of their latest work. But this time they came through, and in spades. [REC] is told documentary style, portrayed as being the footage recorded for a reality TV show. The main characters are the on-air hostess and her cameraman, who are spending the night at a firehouse and filming whatever happens. It starts out as just another boring night at the station, until the firefighters are called to the site of a bizarre domestic disturbance. The TV crew follows along, only to find themselves trapped inside the building by the military as all hell breaks loose.
This is the finest, most convincing piece of "mockumentary" work I have ever seen--and this is coming from someone who just saw Cloverfield, and enjoyed it. For those who are sickened/annoyed by the whole "shaky camera" thing, I'm afraid this is not the movie for you. If you were bothered by Cloverfield, there's no way you'll be able to handle this. But if you're not bothered by that, then strap in for a deeply unnerving ride.
If I had to point to one glaring flaw, it would be the very contrived and very unnecessary plot exposition scene near the end, wherein screenwriters Balaguero, Plaza and Luis Berdejo attempt to give us an explanation for the outbreak. However, the bad taste that left in my mouth was completely overshadowed by what comes directly after. It's been said elsewhere, but the final five minutes of this movie make up one of the most completely terrifying conclusions I ever recall seeing in a horror movie. Quite literally the stuff of nightmares.
This is the kind of flick you want to share with other fans, so I only hope that anyone interested out there will be able to get their hands on it once it comes out on video. I don't even feel that it needs subtitles to be enjoyed. I watched it both with and without, and I think I enjoyed it more without. Even though I couldn't understand most of the dialogue, I was able to focus completely on the visuals--and this movie is all about what we can and can't see. The emotions of the characters are of much greater importance than their specific dialogue, which doesn't really contain anything very profound.
It's funny, because I was a little concerned with how the success of Cloverfield would affect public perception of George Romero's upcoming zombie mockumentary Diary of the Dead. And now I'm doubly concerned, because although [REC] will not reach as much of an audience as Diary, from an artistic standpoint, it has set the bar pretty high.