This review is the start of a change for Ramblings About… It will see us moving away from keeping up with the newest releases and instead focusing on writing about cool things. While we are not completely ditching the new (I’ll probably still get excited about Star Wars’ films and try and write about the things that don’t get as much attention) it will serve as a template for what I look at going forward. Enjoy!
‘You know how people like zombies?’
‘And that whole found footage thing is big too?’
‘Damn right it is.’
‘Well – and this will blow your mind – why don’t we meld the two together?’
‘Give this man some money.’
It would be so easy to believe that was the conversation that led to [REC] and its subsequent sequels. Taking two popular things and melding them together is money making 101. Which is why [REC] is so refreshing, because it’s not that. In fact, it could hardly be further from that.
Set in Barcelona, [REC] begins as Angela Vidal (Manuela Velasco) and her cameraman Pablo (Pablo Rosso) are covering the night shift at a local fire station for their TV show, While You’re Sleeping (‘who watches it then?’ One of the firemen quips). Initially, the night is quite frankly a bit dull, and Angela finds herself wishing that the alarm would go so they could scurry off to some action. Sadly for her, she gets much more than that.
For once they are called to duty it’s to a block of flats where an elderly woman has been acting strangely. So strangely that the first thing she does when they enter is to take a chunk out of an accompanying police officer, an action she does with her teeth. Unfortunately, it’s at that moment that the building is sealed off from the outside by local police/military and they find themselves trapped with a disease that ain’t too friendly.
So far so zombie film. However, where [REC] nails it is in the presentation. This is a found footage film that knows how to use the genre and the shaky footage – which they keep recording to hold the authorities responsible for their actions – takes this normal block of flats and turns it into a nightmare. The sense of claustrophobia from the tight stairways and dark rooms threaten to overwhelm the watcher, and you find yourself just as scared as those taking part.
And trust me, they seem scared. When you talk found footage it’s impossible not to come back to Blair Witch Project and much like that film, there’s a naturalism to the performances in [REC]. The low-budget feel doesn’t hurt this film but adds to its suspense. While in the modern age no one is ever going to believe this footage was real, the decision by directors Jaume Balagueró and Paco Plaza to keep the script away from their actors and have them actually on edge ensures that as you are watching it, you might forget this is a movie.
[REC] is a film that on paper sets you up with a certain expectation and then in the execution pulls that rug from under you and turns off the lights. It’s so far removed from the found footage fare that is churned out every year to shout boo at people that it catches you off guard and leaves you a wreck. This is a genuinely scary horror film, and if you are looking for something to freak you out in the build-up to Halloween, then it might be the one for you.
Verdict: Hall of Fame