Sunday, February 22, 2009

On Rec and Remakes 2: The Showdown

The day has finally come. After much doubt, much waiting and much pessimism, it was at last time to watch the remake of my absolute favorite horror movie thus far. Quarantine was remade from the Spanish flick Rec a good half year after the original came out. I'll be perfectly honest, I am biased, considering how Rec is, as mentioned, one of my favorite horror movies. Also, I am going to compare Quarantine to the original, because it's more of what people in the games industry like to call an updated re-release than an actual remake. Also, finally, there will be discussion of specific scenes, so spoilers ahoy.

Large parts of the movie is pretty much Rec in American, moved to LA for your convenience, but there are some changes. For a brief moment, I thought that the movie actually closed a plot-hole from the original, namely how the disease got from patient zero (the dog) to patient one (the old lady.) However, the movie quickly dismisses that, and leaves us, like the original, with a great big "it just happened, K?"

While speaking of the disease, Quarantine doesn't seem to want to decide if it's going the usual Hollywood-exposition route, or just leave us in the dark. For one, the disease is quickly identified as a superrabies of some sort, thus removing the zombie-aspect. Fair enough. It's not what I'd call a good idea, in fact, I find it quite silly. However, a rather large chunk of exposition was removed from the original in favor of hysterics from the main characters side.

For a while, I wasn't going to let myself be bothered by this movie, you see. I had more or less decided to go with the "It's essentially Rec light"-approach, but that was before the last part of the movie. In Rec, Angela Vidal is a strong woman who actually behaves like a TV reporter, probably because she was played by one, and is a mostly functional survivor even when she finally panics. In Quarantine, Angela Vidal is whiny, hysterical lady who doesn't as much feel like a reporter as an actor playing a Reporter. No joke, for the last half hour or so of Quarantine, Angela's shrill panicking shrieks makes the movie very, very annoying. Doesn't exactly help that 75% of the men in the movie are always Action Hero-Calm (tm), always capable of a soothing, calming pep-talk with the increasingly unbearable Angela. Implications? We don't need no stinkin' implications.

Now, fortunately, Angela isn't the only character who has been hit with the Nerfbat. Part of what I like about Rec is that it has the very real-feeling shaky camerawork, without sacrificing picture quality. Pablo from Rec actually kept the camera fairly steady even when the shit hit the fan, while Scott on the other hand mans the camera like an hyperactive 14-year old. I'm no expert, but one are not supposed to zoom in and out or change angles in the middle of an interview. Night-time TV or not, one simply doesn't do that. Also, Scott methodically chooses bad angles and crops the images weirdly, even before the whole zombie-situation arises, this does put rather huge dents in the all-important immersion. It doesn't feel like a two-man TV crew doing their business before turning horribly wrong, and in that respect it does at replicating Rec.

Also, while on the topic of the camera, there's one scene in Quarantine where Scott beats a zombie (rabid woman, I dunno) with his camera. I'm certain that was meant to be awesome, but as far as I see it, it was more breaking the already strained immersion while being kinda ridiculous. Also, the fact that the camera works perfectly afterward just doesn't fit quite with my idea that cameras are made of plastic and fragile technology rather than iron, steel or kickassium.

When it comes to miscellaneous other annoyances, there's plenty. For one, the characters in this movie seem stupider than in the original, in itself a feat. I mean... chaining a woman infected with a disease that will turn her into a killer... thing to the middle of the stairs rather than somewhere... y'know, she can be a zombie without blocking of a possible escape path. Near the beginning, where the second firefighter falls down without any warning, the makers of Quarantine were so kind to add a scream, presumably to scare us more, although it did take most of the surprise out of that scene. Also the firemen seem a whole less professional, but that's merely nitpicking, almost not worth the mention, hadn't it been for that Manu from Rec is awesome and Jake from Quarantine is... not so much.

But as I mentioned earlier, apart from these annoyances, Quarantine still has some of the things that made Rec great. The atmosphere is pretty good and some of the scares are still very well-timed and such. However, it'd be best just to stick with the original

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