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[Rec] (2007)

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
DVD Released: 7/14/2009

All Ratings out of
Movie: 1/2
Video:
Audio:
Extras: 1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 7/14/2009

When we talk about remakes, we often discuss why anyone felt that the remake was necessary. (Don't worry, we'll be talking about that here as well.) So many of the films which are remade today are based on movies which are typically regarded as classics and many wonder why anyone would want to remake them. If anything why aren't producers going after flawed but interesting movies which could actually benefit from a re-do? The Spanish film [Rec] opened in Spain in November, 2007 and immediately began to generate buzz. Less than a year later, the American remake, Quarantine, hit theaters. The question here isn't so much why was [Rec] remade, as whey wasn't it simply released in the U.S. instead of going through the trouble of making a whole new movie?

[Rec] introduces us to Angela Vidal (Manuela Velasco), the host of a show called While You're Asleep, which focuses on activities which occur overnight. She has come to a fire station with her cameraman, Pablo (Pablo Rosso), to document what the firemen do during the wee hours of the morning. She gets a tour of the station and meets Manu (Ferran Terraza) and Alex (David Vert), two firemen whom she'll be shadowing should an emergency occur. Sure enough, the alarm sounds and Angela and Pablo are on a fire truck, en-route to an apartment building where screams have been heard. The group arrives at the building, were Angela and Pablo follow Alex and Manu inside. There, they find two policemen and several frightened tenants. The seemingly benign case with an old woman locked in her apartment suddenly becomes a nightmare scenario. Some of the buildings inhabitants have seemingly gone mad and begin attacking others, while the authorities on the outside seal off the building, letting no one leave. As they attempt to survive the ordeal, Angela orders Pablo to record everything.

Ten years ago, for better or for worse, The Blair Witch Project re-introduced the world to the idea of a film where we are seeing "found footage" which was captured by someone with a camera who was involved in a disastrous situation. While that nausea-inducing film was all hype, the seed was planted for other filmmakers to try this approach and it's taken several years for someone to finally get it right. Cloverfield showed what could be done if this type of filmmaking was used in a grand-scale, to very impressive results. However, it was [Rec] which cemented just how effective this technique could be when used in close-quarters. The first-person view made a claustrophobic situation seem all the more constricting. Also the use of (nearly) real-time helps to amp up the tension as well.

It could be argued that the filmmaking style rescues what would otherwise be a weak script and there is some validity to that argument. Essentially, [Rec] is "What would it be like if 28 Days Later happened inside of a building?" But, the movie is a lot more than that. The movie doesn't give us a lot of time to get to know the characters, but despite this, the audience is still able to decide who we like and who we don't. There are some moments where logic flies out the window (the characters seem more interested in escaping than simply hiding and waiting. Of course, if they hid and waited, it wouldn't be much of a movie.), but for the most part the story makes narrative sense. The ending, where some of the answers are revealed, is a great shifting of gears and presents a truly original idea. Granted, it may take multiple viewings to completely grasp the explanation, as all hell is breaking loose at the time, but it is a cool idea.

So, the question here is, "Why did anyone feel that it was necessary to remake [Rec]?" Other than the fact that Hollywood is convinced that Americans won't see a foreign language film, I don't know. There's not a great deal of important dialogue in [Rec], save for the finale. Most of the film is so fast-paced, the words take a backseat to the action. Comparing the two films, [Rec] is better than Quarantine due in no small part to the fact that it's fast and lean. The movie sans end credits only runs about 72 minutes, but that brief period is packed with enough scares for at least three movies. By comparison, Quarantine is over fifteen minutes longer and it adds superfluous characters and situations which aren't in the original.

If you're bored with today's horror movies, do yourself a favor and check out [Rec]. It will leave you breathless, and if you're like my wife, the finale will make you want to sleep with the lights on. If you liked Quarantine, you owe it to yourself to see what the film could have been...or in fact was at one point.

[Rec] bites your face off on DVD courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. As with any film in this genre, the image quality is a judgment call. The image is very sharp and clear in static shots, and in the opening scenes in the fire station, the colors look very good. However, once the action starts, the picture is often blurry and somewhat dark. Of course, this is part of the allure of the film. Intentional flaws aside, this transfer looks great. The DVD carries a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. Throughout the entire film, the stereo and subwoofer effects are fantastic. Every scream and yell comes through crystal clear. However, the surround effects are somewhat weak until the finale. Was this intentional? No matter, during the last few minutes, the surround sound really kicks in and makes a scary ending every more frightening.

The [Rec] DVD contains only one extra. "[Rec]: Making Of" (18 minutes) gives us a thorough overview of the film's production. Balaguero and Plaza talk about the origin of the idea and why they chose to go in this direction. We learn about the 20-day shooting schedule and see how the actors often didn't know what was going to happen next. There is also a look at the special effects makeup.

Review Copyright 2009 by Mike Long