Tuesday, September 7, 2010

[Rec] (2007)

Well y'all, this girl actually has a bit of time before her in which she is going to be watching TONS of horror movies. In fact,as soon as I am done writing this here review I'm gonna go watch another one! Wooooooo!

Yes darlings, that's what this girl does when she has the apartment to herself for a week. She doesn't throw parties, or rearrange furniture, she sits in her arm chair and does her damnedest to overdose on horror films. So how happy was lil 'ol me when I turned on the TV and FearNet on demand was running [Rec], which I've been meaning to watch, but other things kept demanding to be at the top of my netflix queue, and you know how that is.

How exciting! And you know what, I wasn't disappointed. And that's kind of rare for me. That's not to say that [Rec] is perfect,because it isn't, but for what it is, it's quite good. And is furthering my opinion that these days Spain is churning out some pretty amazing horror.

So here's the basic rundown of what [Rec] is about:

The film opens with no sort of credits, no title card telling you that what you are about to experience is 100% REAL YOU DON'T EVEN KNOW, it starts like it would if you were watching lost footage. Young, adorable reporter Angela Vidal, is doing a piece for her show "While you're asleep". She is covering the job of local Firefighters, shadowing the firefighters on one of their "typical nights".

The beginning is actually really cute. Angela is sweet and flirtatious with the Firefighters, who seem more than happy to have her around, letting her try on their hats and showing her around the firehouse. I won't lie, two minutes into the movie and I already liked Angela and was secretly routing for her to take the coveted title of 'Final Girl', but that is neither here nor there.

For awhile there's a lot of Angela swinging her arms and telling the cameraman, Pablo, how nothing is happening and how she is getting bored. But then, oh joy of joys, the Firehouse alarm goes off, and the boys are called out. A resident is apparently trapped in their apartment, and of course, firemen Alex and Manu are more than happy to let Angela and Pablo ride along with them.

Once they arrive at the apartment they are greeted by a group of police and a lobby full of nervous apartment occupants. Apparently, the resident in question is an old woman who lives upstairs, no one has been able to get into the apartment; but they sure heard an awful lot of bangin' and screamin' up there. Manu assures the nervous tenants that everything will be fine, they have tools, they'll have the apartment open in a jiffy.

So, up the stairs they go, the firefighters, a couple of sanctimonious police officers whose names I can't remember because they were kind of douchebags, and Angela and her cameraman. Once the door to the apartment is cracked and our intrepid heroes venture inside, it is obvious to even the bluntest tool in the shed that there is something gravely amiss here. The old woman is standing in a corner soaked in blood and looking crazy as a shit house rat. Apparently, this isn't concerning anyone though, and the authority figures of the group schlep on over to Granny Batshit with lot's of "hey, everything's fine. You're fine, I'm fine, the suns out, ain't life dandy"? speak.

To the surprise of NO ONE, the crazy bitch launches at one of the policeman; because her stomach was making the rumblies that only human throats would satisfy. The firefighters manage to wrestle the lunch meat man away from the old woman and more or less subdue her. Manu instructs Alex to stay up here with the woman and not let her do any more crazy shit, whilst he and the other, more sanctimonious police officer, drag the shrieking, blood squirting man down to the lobby.

This does nothing to help the level of hysteria amongst the residents. Because, let's be fair, nothing ruins a decent night like a bleeding man squealing like a stuck pig in your lobby. Minor chaos erupts as the residents begin to be increasingly more shrill in their demands to know 'just WHAT in the name of God's ass is going on here'. This is, of course, when Alex takes the swan dive from the top of the stairwell and splats on the lobby floor.

Things go from bad to worse, because this about the time that the electricity in the building gets shut off, and the apartment is flooded with bright lights from outside, whilst a voice informs them via bullhorn, that "The health authorities have sealed off the building for health reasons". And because of something called a BNC threat, which we later learn translates to biological, nuclear, or chemical threat.

This, dear readers, is when all Hell breaks loose. The building is entirely sealed off, complete with plastic dropped from helicopters, and armed men in biohazard suits outside of the complex. But this is also the point when Angela turns to the camera, and in a deadly serious voice tells him:

"Fuck what they say, we have to tape this, people need to know what happened".

Generally this is the sort of thing that would make me put my hands up and shout "DONE!" in regards to the character. Because, generally, this is the sort of thing done out of sheer narcissism, but there is something in the earnest way that Angela handles herself and the situation that I couldn't help but find it endearing.

And remember that police officer who got attacked, and the poor fireman who was hefted down the stairs by the crazy old lady? Oh yeah, they're starting to act just like the woman, because, you know, they got bitten.

Fortunately it doesn't take long for our little troupe to figure out that getting bitten makes you into grey faced, blood thirsty, assholes. UNfortunately, the grey faced, blood thirsty, assholes, are not the George A. Romero shambling variety. You know, the kind that if they manage to catch you, you probably deserve to die because they travel about a centimeter every two hours? Nope, these guys barrel at you for all they're worth.

Fast zombies, or not zombies, whatever they are ... are harder to stay away from. So the residents of the condemned apartment complex fall one by one, the slowest, and most useless go first.

Okay, so this movie is more or less the mutant offspring of "28 Days later" and "The Blair Witch Project", if it were raised by George A. Romero's "The Crazies". And if you have a problem with "the shakey hand-held cam" business, you'll want to give this one a wide birth. HOWEVER, what thoroughly endeared [Rec] to me, and set it apart from others in this genre (namely, Paranormal Activity and The Blair With Project) is how intensely character driven it is.

There is a tight grouping of central characters and you actually care about them. You like them, you want them to come out swinging, and not become one of the rage filled bumbling hoard. Angela and Pablo's relationship is touching, even though you never see Pablo, but instead see the events through him. But even as shit hits the fan, Angela always looks first to Pablo, and he, in turn, is quick to take a hold of her hand and comfort her as it gets tenser.

Generally the faux-documentary type of movie doesn't do it for me. But the tight, almost claustrophobic, way it is filmed via hand held camera gives the viewer a sense of the tense urgency of the film. You feel involved, you're in the thick of it with them.

There is no "happily ever after" wherein everything is tied up in a neat little bundle, but the ending had a twist to it that I actually found surprising, which is rare. Usually reveals in this type of film are contrite, or so obvious you feel beaten over the head with it. But this leaves more questions than it answers, along with a deep unsettled feeling in the stomach.

Yes, there are flaws. Yes, there were multiple times during the film that I found myself shouting "YOU HAVE A GUN! JUST SHOOT THEM!", and I won't lie, a few of the characters you are fairly pleased to see get it. Nonetheless, I was fairly impressed with [Rec]. So really kids, see it, it kicks Paranormal Activity's ass and takes its lunch money.


  1. To my surprise, [Rec]2 was just as good, if not better, than the original. The sequel and prequel have been announced with each director splitting and taking the tale in ways we can only imagine.


  2. Def my fave handycam film so far. I hate faux docs with a passion, but this one amazingly delivered where countless others have failed. Good acting, great story, and even tho [REC]2 took it down a different path, still a great set of films to watch back to back.

    Nice review spookster.