FIRST LOOK: [REC] (by Robg.)

As an avid fan of not only horror movies, but just good movies in general, I try my best to keep up with what’s going on in foreign cinema – especially Spanish horror, which in the last decade or so has offered some amazing genre contributions. For example, I consider Alejandro Amenabar’s TESIS (THESIS) and ABRE LOS OJOS (OPEN YOUR EYES) to be among my all time favorite Spanish horror movies. Now, (thankfully) filmmakers Jaume Balaguero and Paco Plaza have made a movie that I can easily put at the top of my favorite foreign film list, [REC].
And if [REC] starts to sound familiar as you continue to read this FIRST LOOK REVIEW, it should – it’s already been remade for American audiences by the Dowdle brothers (THE POUGHKEEPSIE TAPES) as QUARANTINE, starring Jennifer Carpenter (DEXTER, THE EXORCISM OF EMILY ROSE) and Jay Hernandez (HOSTEL) with a release date already set for a October 10th, 2008.
If the glimpses from the trailers of QUARANTINE prove anything, it looks like we’re in for a shot-for-shot remake of an already existing film, and that… annoys me terribly. Not because the new film exists, mind you. It’ll probably be great and I’ll be first in line to see it. But it’s the fact that most of you will go see QUARANTINE not realizing that a far superior version of it already exists and can be easily sought out with just a little bit of effort.
That’s why I’m doing this FIRST LOOK REVIEW in the first place! To introduce you to one of the best horror films I’ve seen in the last decade. [REC] is not only one of the best genre offerings, but I think it’s my favorite approach to the “zombie” sub-genre I’ve seen in recent years. And more importantly, this is one of the best “found footage” films ever. (A gimmick that’s already worn itself out, but in [REC]’s defense, it was made in early 2007 before CLOVERFIELD.)
The story is simple enough. The entire movie is the film footage of a cameraman that works for the late night news show “While You’re Asleep.” Angela Vidal is the host of the show and for this episode, she’s focusing on firefighters and their job. So, the film starts with her interviewing the crew at their firehouse, eagerly waiting for a call on something, anything to make for an exciting episode of her show. Well, that call does come in. And it starts out as a simple “old lady fell down in her apartment” call. Once the firefighters (and the camera crew) arrive at the apartment complex, they find several police officers already there, and the majority of the buildings tenants all waiting in the lobby.
What they do find in the old lady’s apartment is quite shocking, but even worse, when Angela, the firefighters, the police and the tenants try to exit the building to get medical attention for a wounded man, they suddenly realize that they are locked in. Dozens of police surround the building and a quarantine has been put into effect. There’s something in this building, the government doesn’t want it getting out and these poor saps are stuck in there with it! To make sure the truth eventually comes out, Angela insists that her cameraman shoot EVERY thing that happens. And… he does!
I honestly don’t want to give away much more then that because it’d ruin all the fun. (Much like the QUARANTINE trailers have already done! Thanks, Hollywood!) But I love this simple set-up. Telling this story from the perspective of the “cameraman” only adds to the film’s effectiveness. And I’ll be honest, I couldn’t help but think “What the hell would I do in this situation?” (See? Movies can make you actually think sometimes too! And that’s a good thing, fiends!) I really found the situation to be scary and that tension made the entire 2nd half of the movie intense.
Manuela Velasco plays the overly eager Angela and she’s cute as a button! I couldn’t help but think of Jennifer Carpenter as I watched this film because the two share a similar look; both have a similar body build and that “can’t-quite-put-my-finger-on-it” attractive quality that makes you smitten with them almost immediately. My other favorite performance is by Ferran Terraza, who plays the firefighter Manu. Just know this, he’s the man.
My cousin is the one that showed me [REC], and the film impressed me so much, that I immediately hopped on-line and bought an import copy of the DVD. (If you have a multi-regional player, I encourage you to do the same. Buy it HERE: http://xploitedcinema.com)

I can’t recommend this movie enough. It was truly original, scary and a well-executed film by a pair of directors that I plan on keeping a close eye on from here on out. Try to see [REC] before QUARANTINE. I’m sure QUARANTINE will be good. I mean, can they really screw this concept up? Ok, ok, you’re right, it is Hollywood. But regardless, [REC] gets ICONS OF FRIGHT’s highest possible recommendation. –Robg.

[REC] Trailer:


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