“Recovered Footage” horror movies are seemingly becoming more and more popular in the last few years (The Last Exorcism, Paranormal Activity, The Blair Witch Project, etc.). Posing themselves as documentary footage, they are usually pretty effective at capturing the realism of the event, and they provide us with a first hand account of what the characters are going through during each particular event of the film. [REC] is another in that line of film making, and it proves itself to be very effective at scaring your friggin pants off.
Angela Vidal is a news reporter accompanied by her cameraman Pablo, for the late night TV show “While You’re Asleep” – a show that documents different occupations that do some sort of work while most normal people are sleeping. In this particular episode, she’s following some firemen in Barcelona. What starts off as a fairly pedestrian evening of playing basketball with the firemen and trying on their equipment quickly becomes exciting when they get a call of a woman trapped in her apartment. Angela escorts Manu and Alex (the two firefighters she’s been assigned to) to the apartment building where things go from confused to panicked in a matter of minutes.
When they get to the woman’s apartment, they are met by two local policemen who are trying to get in. After punching out the lock, they’re able to gain access to the apartment where they find the older woman in blood soaked clothes at the end of her hallway. After trying to talk to her for a few moments, she bull rushes one of the police officers and bites a nice sized chunk out of his neck. Alex subdues the woman while the other two remove the injured officer, and then things really start to get strange. When they attempt to remove the injured officer from the building, they find the front door through which they just came is now sealed off by police and health officials, and they find that the building is being quarantined for the inspection of a mysterious virus. Alex soon falls through an opening in the staircase and has apparently been bitten and his face has been mauled. Over time, the two bitten victims transform into carriers of this virus and become hungry for the flesh of others. Now the rest of the tenants need to find a way out, and Angela and Pablo are the only two who can document this for the rest of the world to see.
As with most of these “recovered footage” films, the camera work is limited to the one camera that one of the main characters is holding so you always get that “shaky cam effect”. While I don’t personally have a problem with these types of films, I know that some people do, and that’s something that should be said right off the bat. It is incredibly effective at capturing the suspense and there are several parts of the movie where all I could think to myself while watching it was “TURN AROUND!”, and when they do eventually turn around, you get some great jump scares. While in that respect you can see it coming, it doesn’t make it any less scary.
It’s a pretty genius plot device to have the building sealed off from the outside. Besides bringing a feeling that the characters are helpless to flee the situation, it also brings about a feeling of claustrophobia even though they’re in a building full of apartments. Add to the claustrophobia a feeling of paranoia when everyone starts pointing fingers at each other as to who they should blame for the initial infection (hint – the ones who point the fingers the most are usually the ones to blame, whether they know it or not!) The acting is very well done, to the point that you almost forget these people are actors, and it just adds to the immersion that you already get from the camera work. I almost forgot the film was subtitled, because by the time things get really thick, you can see the terror on everyones faces.
[REC] is a movie that comes along every so often that just hits every note perfectly. There isn’t a thing I can find fault with or any reason I can suggest on why if you haven’t seen it that you shouldn’t see it right away. And by the time you get to the real reason that this infection has spread, you’ll already be as scared as the characters involved. [REC] gets 5 falling firemen out of 5.