In 2007, the Spanish movie REC generated an impressive buzz on the festival circuit as horror genre fan-boys — myself included — praised it as being one of the scariest movies ever made. Strong accolades, to be sure, but it was a film that pulled together elements from The Blair Witch Project, Cloverfield, 28 Days Later and the entire cinematic zombie cannon and blended them all together in a claustrophobic white-knuckler as terrifying as it was engrossing.
It didn’t take long for Hollywood to take notice of REC’s buzz, as Screen Gems scrambled to greenlight an English-language remake — causing fans of the original to both bemoan Hollywood’s lack of originality and predict that they would only botch the result. Which is why I’m surprised to write that not only is Quarantine every bit as good as the original, in some respects it actually surpasses it.
In fact, the only area in which Quarantine failed to improve was in terms of the camerawork. While both are built around the reality-TV handheld camera viewpoint, REC’s cinematography was much more stable, whereas Quarantine’s is so erratic as to be almost nausea inducing. Roughly 90% of this movie is a shot-for-shot remake of its predecessor; however, the few deviations are key improvements over the original story — which, for the uninitiated, unfolds in a decrepit apartment building as fire department first responders, with a reality TV crew in tow, find themselves embroiled in escalating madness as a mysterious contagion begins transforming the occupants into homicidal ghouls.
Writers Drew and John Erick Dowdle improve upon the original by providing the viewer with a more plausible and nuanced explanation of the disease and its inception, moving away from the macabre elements of REC in favor of a scientific basis — all of which makes Quarantine a bonafide skin crawler.