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LOSTATSEA.NET > FEATURES >

June 4, 2008
RATING: 8/10
These days good horror is hard to find. It hides amongst the legions of crappy efforts and blends in with the genrescape, often victim to poorly placed labels like "Torture Porn" or "Slasher Film." Thus, most viewers will pass up a quality horror film like Hostel or High Tension because they made the mistake of paying to see Saw or whatever Asian horror remake is out on any given week. Horror is such a divisive genre to begin with that one cinematic misstep can lose an entire audience. There is NOTHING harder, cinematically speaking, than making a good horror film, simply because the crucial suspension of disbelief, combined with realistic scares and gore, require a Herculean directorial and editorial balancing act. Most audiences cannot stomach more than 90 minutes of scares and that ticking clock daunts even the most experienced directors. Poor scripting, bad acting and cliché can destroy a scary movie before anyone has even laid eyes on the villain. That said, horror is both a minefield and a goldmine because, when done well, audiences will pay again and again for the privilege of being scared shitless. The new Spanish film [Rec] is one of the few horror flicks in recent memory worthy of such scatological praise.



Fitting into the often misused and poorly represented Blair Witch-esque sub-genre of "found footage" horror, [Rec] begins innocently enough as the filming of a Barcelona TV program about people with unique night jobs - thus all of [Rec]'s footage comes from a handheld camera. The woman on camera, bearing a striking resemblance to Amelie's Audrey Tautou , has a kind of glowing, youthful charisma as she interviews local firefighters about their work and tours their fire station. Clearly hungry for more substantive journalism, she is relegated to lighter fare due to her inexperience. An emergency call comes into the station during the shoot and the TV hostess and her cameraman are allowed to ride along with the firefighters. The engine driver notes jovially that there is no need to use the siren because this call is of such low importance - nothing life threatening. When the fire trucks arrive at an apartment complex the news team hurries into the building, where they learn from neighbors that screams have been emanating from one of the apartments upstairs. As firefighters and police head upstairs and kick down the door to the apartment the news team follows, documenting what can only be described as all hell breaking loose. The geriatric resident of the dark flat, raving out of her mind and rabidly violent, viciously bites the face of one of the firemen so deeply that he begins to bleed out. Running from the enraged octogenarian the emergency responders, trailed by the camera crew, regroup in the building's lobby to tend to the wounded and talk with the building's other residents. As they attempt to evacuate their injured colleague the firemen learn from armed guards now posted at the exit that the building is under complete quarantine due to some sort of infection which, come to find out, is spread through the saliva of the infected. Needless to say, things go from bad to worse.



There are too many great scares and tense moments in [Rec] to give any more detail about the film's plot without spoiling it. What is worth mentioning though is that [Rec] is one of the few films where the use of the handheld camera to document the events actually seems plausible. In too many films of late - Cloverfield [LAS feature] and Diary of the Dead [LAS feature] for example - the impetus for continued filming actually detracts from the film's believability; anyone bothering with a camera in such life-threatening circumstances is no more believable than an invasion of space aliens. In [Rec] that plausibility gap is bridged first by the television crew's desire to document something truly newsworthy and then, later, the camera - equipped with lights, night-vision and other features that help the crew navigate the ordeal - becomes a tool of survival.

Because [Rec] is a Spanish language film and thus involves subtitles, it is sure to make less of an impact in the US and Canada than it warrants. North Americans don't like to "read" movies any more than they like to read books. Catering to collective laziness, Hollywood has already filmed and completed a remake of [Rec] which may wind up being released here before the original film even has a chance for US distribution. Given the ridiculously bad track record of Hollywood horror remakes, there is little hope that the new flick will do the original any justice whatsoever. It would be worth the time and effort to find a copy of [Rec] simply to bask in the brief joy provided by a masterfully made independent horror film.

TRAILER 1: www.youtube.com/watch?v=OeaUokzE9fI

TRAILER 2: www.youtube.com/watch?v=nfgZlMYj_NU

SEE ALSO: www.recmovie.co.uk
SEE ALSO: movies.filmax.com/rec

--
Jon Burke
A contributing writer and a Chicago resident who will not be goaded by LAS’s editor into revealing any more details about his potentially sordid affairs.

See other articles by Jon Burke.

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