Jennifer Carpenter brilliantly hides in a corner while monsters run amok in Quarantine.
As Printed in The Lumberjack on October 16, 2008
by Gary Sundt
Have any of you ever noticed that nothing good results when somebody breaks out the handi-cam? In The Blair Witch Project, it was an unseen force that had a love of noise-making and teeth removal. Diary of the Dead gave us zombies, and Cloverfield had some giant monster thing with parasitic lice. Now we have Quarantine, and the crisis threatening to squash humanity is Super Rabies. Not just rabies. Super Rabies.
However, the film does a whole heck of a lot with Super Rabies. The infected are a spooky bunch, running amok with their foaming mouths and intense desire to bite your face. The victims are all pretty stupid, so they get themselves into some pretty scary hijinks. And I am compelled to mention how consistently impressed I am with the resolve of the main characters of these Queasy-Cam films; their tenacity with the camera during these high-stress dilemmas is nothing less than impressive. But I suppose without the cameraman, there isn’t a movie.
Anyway, our heroes in Quarantine are Angela Vidal (Jennifer Carpenter), a reporter who is assigned to spend a night with the Los Angeles Fire Department, and her cameraman Scott (Steve Harris). The film begins innocently enough, showing all the crazy and wild times to be had in a fire station. It’s all fun and games until the alarm sounds, at which point its down the pole and off to adventures.
The 911 call reports an elderly woman screaming bloody murder in one of the upstairs rooms of a small apartment building. The firefighters break down the door to reveal the woman not screaming, but rather covered in blood and breathing erratically. Then the woman bites one of the unsuspecting firefighters. Then the Center for Disease Control puts the whole building on lockdown, so the uninfected are locked in with the infected.
One point in Quarantine’s favor is the film’s consideration that being trapped when a zombie-like phenomenon is afoot is a bad thing. While watching zombie-type movies, I have often asked myself: “Why barricade yourself in a small place with few escapes, especially when the monster is going to get in there eventually because it has nothing better to do?”
The answer to this question is, of course, to up the bloodshed in the flick. And from that first grisly bite on, the infection spreads. People get too close, or they don’t recognize the obvious symptoms…yadda yadda yadda. The “infected” may not really be “zombies” (they are not the living dead), but they are close enough to fit the stereotype. This is a dance we’ve all seen before, and it’s a pretty by-the-numbers story from the first bite on. Everybody in the audience knows what is up, while everyone on screen is oblivious to the whole thing until it’s too late.
However, the shaky-cam keeps Quarantine scary enough to be an effective horror flick. The very nature of the “handheld gimmick” is to distort the audience’s sense of time and place, whether by quick pans or jump out surprises. The close quarters of the small apartment complex and the repeated visits to the same rooms makes the film feel very claustrophobic, which is good if you want to scare the pants off somebody.
Quarantine is actually a remake of the 2007 Spanish film [REC]. It continues to fascinate me how American horror filmmakers seem content with making the same film as somebody in another country, and this “update” is a pretty fast turnaround. Director and co-writer John Erick Dowdle did some decent work in a hurry, but the film is not better for the rush. I don’t know if the speediness of the production hurt the overall result, but there are noticeable weaknesses throughout the film that could have probably been avoided had they taken more time with the script.
Regardless, Quarantine is a success. The film is thoroughly scary at times, and even though the ending is flat-out shown in the trailer, the build-up to that conclusion is likely to be the most intense bit of horror this Halloween movie season. It’s bound to be better than Saw V, which is a review you can look forward to not reading in The Lumberjack.