Tag Archives: Quarantine

Zombies Ho!

[Rec]4 Apocalypse

by Hope Madden

In 2007, Paco Plaza and Jaume Balaguero revived the already dying first-person-camera gimmick with a claustrophobic zombie flick that was imaginative, bloody, and thrilling – though you may remember their [Rec] better by its American remake title, Quarantine. In both, a news reporter and her cameraman are trapped inside an apartment building under quarantine with a rabies-like virus running rampant. No matter the language, the film was a fun and exciting ride.

The American franchise petered out with one sequel (Zombies on a Plane), but its Spanish counterpart has spawned three offspring. [Rec]2 put us right back inside the quarantined building to find that the virus had some kind of demonic origin, while the third installment saw that demon zombification take on a wedding reception. The latest in the series returns to the scene of the crime, as a new team of responders infiltrates the apartment building to set detonators – then one handsome hero hears the call of that lovely reporter, Angela (Manuela Velasco).

Those of us who have kept up on the series happen to know something about Angela that noble Guzman (Paco Manzanedo) does not. If you have not kept up, well, you and Guzman may have a surprise in store.

Balaguero helms this mission solo, placing Angela, Guzmon, the sole survivor of Part 3’s wedding, some armed goons, some sketchy doctors, and a hapless crew onboard a ship to really put some miles around this particular quarantine. Corridors, holds and lower decks give the action a heightened sense of claustrophobia, while Balaguero back peddles from both the silly wedding theme and the hokey demon-virus angle. He also uses security cameras to call back to the original first-person idea without succumbing to tired formula.

Otherwise, though, the film offers little in the way of novelty. The story and its telling are about as fresh as a poop deck. Balaguero can’t generate any tension from the medical experimentation angle and, worse still, he fails to use the sea itself as a source of isolation or claustrophobia.

On the other hand, the zombies have boils on their faces this time, plus there are infected monkeys, which are pretty mean.

[Rec]4 offers a serviceably entertaining riff on the original with much of what you enjoyed the first time around, especially if you enjoyed seeing Velasco in a bloody wife-beater. But it’s high tide and high time to lay this oft-reanimated corpse to rest.


A Tight Squeeze

As Above, So Below

by Hope Madden

A friend of mine went to Paris for her honeymoon, convincing her husband to tour the catacombs beneath the city while there. It’s a creepy, claustrophobic destination for most anyone. He’s uninterested in the macabre, and he’s 6’4”. It was a tight fit.

I thought of him frequently during As Above, So Below because, if there’s one thing the film does effectively, it is tap your claustrophobic dread.

Scarlett, an Indiana Jones type, believes a stone that A) turns any metal into gold, and B) grants eternal life, is hidden beneath Paris. She lures a documentarian, an old boyfriend, and a team of Parisian catacomb explorers to help her finish the quest that killed her father. All told, it’s a weirdly young, attractive, hyper-intelligent group of explorers.

Obviously, co-writer/director John Erick Dowdle (Quarantine) owes the Jones franchise a pretty big debt. He’s equally indebted to Neil Marshall’s 2005 horror classic The Descent, and he robs here and there from his own Quarantine, the Julia Roberts/Keiffer Sutherland debacle Flatliners, and the Nicolas Cage ridiculousness National Treasure. A weird mix, that, but there are moments when it works.

The one thing Dowdle does well is develop a rising terror of confinement – a knack he proved with Quarantine. He loses his footing when it comes to intermittent scares, and the film just doesn’t build to enough of a climax.

The set up takes too long and there’s not enough terror to distract you from the fairly ludicrous quest underway. The spooky images are few and far between, with Dowdle relying too heavily on the whiz and whir of handheld cameras and distorted sounds to carry the load his imagination couldn’t.

It doesn’t make the film entirely unsatisfying. The claustrophobic among us, in particular, will be put through the ringer. But Dowdle and crew can’t quite piece together enough quality moments to deliver a memorable chiller.