So, is Spanish horror the new Japanese horror? Where once films coming out of Japan (and Korea) were the new source of effortlessly and mindblowingly scary, not to mention ripe to be snapped up for an American remake, it seems that the Spanish are quickly catching up.
[Rec] certainly contributes to this feeling.
Judging by Zombie1’s review of Quarantine (which I have yet to see, but having been impressed by Jennifer Carpenter in both Dexter and The Exorcism of Emily Rose I am certainly interested in it), the American remake follows its original extremely closely. So, sidestepping plot details, of which the film is impressively short on anyway, I will move straight on to the part where I completely loved it.
Not one for first-person digital camcorder films like The Blair Witch Project generally speaking, I thought that [Rec] worked extremely well.
For sheer practicality, the entire scenario is spare and effective. Keeping everyone trapped in a confined space, with close to zero special effects (apart from some good make-up) allows for a low-budget horror, but the film manages to never look cheap (unlike a great many American horror films).
The filmmakers certainly make the most of what they have, and do so in an energetic and efficiently brief 80 minutes.
In particular, using the first-person camera allows for dynamic effects which ensure the tension remains throughout (especially in the last moments of the film). The restrictive nature of the camera man’s – Manu (Ferran Terraza) – field of vision adds to the claustrophobia of the setting, as well as intensifying the feeling of panic in moments of peril.
The performances are also convincing – probably aided by the actors’ unknowness – with Manuela Velasco maintaining sympathetic engagement as anchorwoman Ángela Vidal.
Worth singling out though is the sound design, which is really fantastic (and strangely not the sort of thing I find myself noticing usually) and most affective.
Most significantly [Rec] manages to make tropes common to horror (zombies, female investigator, first-person camera) feel fresh and exciting.
The deployment of the camera really makes you feel in the thick of the action (much more so than other examples of this stylistic strategy, which often lead to watching out for moments when the camera couldn’t possible be where it is if someone is meant to be filming), so that the decision to do so is not simply a fashionable stylistic tic, but something entirely necessary to the film as a whole.
[Rec] makes for a visceral and vibrant watching experience (though the ending does stand out for sheer blood-pumping, seat-squirming horror), which left me feeling most impressed with its makers.