As I discovered last month, Japanese horror movies (aka J-Horror) are beginning to get a run for their money from the movies of a similar genre coming out of Spain (or Sporror movies, as I’ve decided they should be called!). After the brilliance of The Orphanage though, I was seriously doubting that I’d be as impressed by the next Sporror movie (see, it works) that crossed my path. And while I wont say that REC comes anywhere close to being as mind blowing as The Orphanage, it’s completely unfair to even compare these movies, given that the only thing they have in common is their country of origin… oh, and that they’ll make you crap yourself if you’re not careful.
Knowing that REC is shot in a one camera, shaky-cam style, similar to CLOVERFIELD, could be something that would put some people off the idea of watching this film. However the premise — at least as far as why we’re seeing the events in the this film from a one camera perspective — are a little more plausible than the idea that one idiot simply refuses to put down his digital-camera. Reporter Angela and camera man, Pablo, work on a fairly unglamorous reality / documentary television show titled “When You’re Asleep”. The show’s premise is that Angela and Pablo (who, being a camera man, remains unseen) expose the efforts of those whose late-night jobs require them to work, while the rest of us sleep.
We, never actually see the final product, however we witness the raw footage, shot on the night that Angela and Pablo join up with one of Barcelona’s local fire stations. At first the filming starts out as expected, with interviews and the odd out-take, but when a call comes in that an elderly woman is injured and trapped in her apartment, the team accompany fire-fighters Manu and Alex on this, non-fire related, call-out. What initially appears to be a rather routine job suddenly becomes a fight for survival when things with the old lady take a horrific turn.
I generally have a pretty high tolerance for shaky-cam shot movies, and I’m not often bothered by them, although I know that some people find them almost impossible to stomach. Perhaps it was because of the fact that Pablo is supposed to be an experienced camera-man, or perhaps I was able to hold on to the subtitles to steady myself a bit? Whatever the case, this film barely registered on my accelerometer. That’s not to say things don’t get a bit hectic during some of the more intense scenes — of which there are many — but to me, they felt very much in keeping with the reality of the sequences.
The cause for the terrifying events that take place in the apartment building are… well, not so much explained, as they’re given an origin. The ultimate explanation however, is left up to the viewer. Spiritually, Rec could almost have been considered a prequel to Danny Boyle and Alex Garland’s excellent 28 DAYS LATER. It certainly tries for a similar level of intensity, however Rec is far less ‘epic’ than the 2002 ‘rage-zombie’ flick and doesn’t quite achieve the same, stomach-knotting, impact. To be fair though, some of Rec’s character development may have been lost in translation and, for me, I always find horror films to be far more intense when I’ve build a bond with the characters. So considering that, Rec deserves bonus points for being as intense as it is.
Rec owes much of its intensity to the performances of the cast. Given that this film is intended to play out from a ‘fly on the wall’ perspective, the performances, more so than usual, had to be natural and spontaneous. To achieve this, director Jaume Balagueró kept much of the script from the actors and filmed extra scenes which were never intended to be used, just to keep the actors confused. Balagueró even went as far as to not tell the actors about sudden, unpredictable events and special effects, to make sure that they were truly frightened by their occurrence. This is no mean feat, considering that many of the movie’s sequences are done using long, continuous shots. The end result however, is that the film really does have a spur-of-the-moment feel about it.
The great news is that there’s a US remake of Rec on it’s way, titled QUARANTINE… what makes that great is that the makers of Rec are attempting to get REC 2 released before Quarantine hits cinemas. Which means we wont have too long to wait for more great Sporror! [source]