[REC] vs. Quarantine

How not to remake a horror movie.

You know what’s worse than a crappy American horror movie? A crappy American horror movie which recreates its predecessor scene for scene, with language being the only major difference on the surface. 

‘[REC]’ is a 2007 Spanish horror film. Through the eyes of a reporter and her cameraman, we’re shown a rapidly deteriorating situation, as the firefighters who the crew are filming are called into an apartment block to deal with a distress call. It quickly becomes clear that something far worse is going on as the building is placed under quarantine so nobody can escape, leaving the residents, firefighters and journalists to fend for themselves against unspeakable horror.

That’s it, that’s the premise. It’s simple, it’s well-acted, it feels realistic (relatively speaking) and above all, it’s scary as hell. ‘[REC]’ is the cinematic embodiment of a no thrills, no bullshit experience. It does wonders within the found-footage genre, feeling like a tape and not at all like a cinematic experience (which so many other films of this sub-genre seem to completely miss the boat on). 

Then we have ‘Quarantine’, released just a year after the original in the peculiar style of a near-scene-for-scene remake. You’d think then, that any praise/criticism that could be levelled at ‘[REC]’ would equally apply to ‘Quarantine’. But no. Despite having a much bigger budget, ‘Quarantine’ takes what I see as one of the scariest movies ever made and shits all over it. There are a few basic aspects of film and film-making which completely set the respective entries apart.

A scene comes to mind in which an infected woman attacks the group and the cameraman fends her off with his camera. In ‘[REC]’, the mixture of blood and sweat on the camera lens looks very realistic and effective – it just works as it needs to. In ‘Quarantine’ however, the make-up on the infected looks rubbish and blood splatter on the camera appears so cheap – it reminded me of something a five year old might have produced on paint. And it might sound like a small detail, but something as simple as a bullet shot sounding authentic can make a huge difference – the difference between feeling like a gunshot is real and feeling like you’re listening to something straight out a Call of Duty game. 

Copyright Sony

I mentioned pacing when talking about ‘The Irishman’. It’s telling that despite clocking in at 210 minutes, I was never bored during it, and yet despite running for just 89 minutes, ‘Quarantine’ seriously dragged. ‘[REC]’ may have only been 14 minutes shorter, but when the plot is as thin as it is here, that extra 14 minutes of what is essentially filler, makes a huge difference to pacing.

I could go on with these comparisons. The characters are likeable and realistic in ‘[REC]’, yet clichéd and stereotypical in ‘Quarantine’. The lead actress in ‘[REC]’ (Manuela Velasco) sells her character excellently, as a journalist who becomes increasingly frantic and scared as the scope of the situation dawns on her. Jennifer Carpenter plays the lead in the remake and while she might be good in ‘Dexter’, she doesn’t fit ‘Quarantine’ at all. Maybe she didn’t have much good material to work with, but honestly, how hard can it be to convey emotion when you spend 90 minutes screaming and crying?

Copyright Letterboxd

‘Quarantine’ is yet another example of laziness which is rife in Hollywood. Big studios continue to remake lesser known foreign hits to cater to a mass-market, putting little thought into what made the original popular in the first place and instead placing focus on jump-scares which increasingly plague modern horror.

[REC] – 8/10
Quarantine – 2/10

Featured Image Copyright Matt Skuta

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