31 March 2009

Movie Review:Quarantine



C

Quarantine
2008, 89mins, R
Director: John Erick Dowdle
Writer (s): John Erick Dowdle, Drew Dowdle
Cast includes: Jennifer Carpenter, Jay Hernandez, Steve Harris, Johnathon Schaech, Greg Germann, Dania Ramirez
Release Date: 10th October 2008

Remakes tread a thin line. Some are terrible, fewer are great with most just toppling into unnecessary mediocrity. Famous members of that last camp include Gus Van Sant’s ill advised rehash of Psycho and Platinum Dunes unmemorable attempt to resurrect The Hitcher in 2007. Now Quarantine can be added into the group, an Americanized retelling of Spanish horror [REC] which takes several of the flaws that peppered that effort whilst simultaneously failing to capture much of its merit. Those uninitiated with the European original might find Quarantine rewarding enough but anyone who’s sampled the finer cinematic cuisine is destined to regurgitate this unneeded cash cow.

T.V personality Angela Vidal (Jennifer Carpenter) has been assigned to shadow part of the local LA fire department for the night, to provide viewers with a chance to see the behavior required of such high pressure jobs. The evening gets off to a slow start and Angela even begins to befriend a few of the staff, but out of nowhere a call comes stating that there is an emergency in an apartment complex nearby. Angela accompanies the fire fighters and on arrival finds that there is an old lady suffering from some sort of panic attack, and who has blood gained a coat of blood somehow. The group attempts to calm her but she gets aggressive and eventually attacks one of the policemen at the scene. Things quickly escalate and for an unknown reason those on the outside have set up a perimeter and are refusing to let anyone inside the building out. As more people seem to succumb to the trance like state of violence and aggression it is suggested there is a virus being transmitted from person to person, turning you into a bloodthirsty humanoid. The residents, TV crew and firefighters proceed to try and escape, but the building is tightly guarded and on the inside survival gets increasingly harder as more people show signs of infection.

Like its Spanish predecessor Quarantine is shot on handheld video in the same vein as The Blair Witch Project and more recently Cloverfield. This form of filmmaking is getting increasingly tiresome, it worked for all three of the aforementioned efforts but sadly the flaws in this style are evident when applied to a lukewarm remake. This guerilla style of cinema constantly seems to overshadow the screenplay itself and relies too heavily on boo scares. Director John Erick Dowdle seems heartily convinced that replicating a few of the more intense moments from [REC] and inserting in a few cheap jump tactics will keep the audience on the edge of their seat. He is wrong. It’s not that Dowdle seems like an incompetent director but rather that he almost seems to fear originality or anything genuinely chilling. If there was one thing the first picture did well it was creating a spate of eerie and properly creepy horror moments. This film might make you jump once but its ultimately lazy, cheap and exploitative filmmaking.

Visually Quarantine admittedly looks crisper and more refined than [REC] but whilst it may be a technically superior venture it harbors many of the same pacing flaws and a weaker understanding of screen terror. [REC] for all its menace and tension did suffer from a notably overstretched and formulaic middle act, not unwatchable but certainly a cut below its well staged opening and knockout climax. Quarantine has the same issue, in terms of runtime it’s a leaner movie but still struggles to keep the central half hour consistently gripping and effective maybe even more so than the original. The cast was never a vital part of this story as the documentary style camera work is meant to help place the viewer in the action but on this occasion I will give Jennifer Carpenter a backslap. She makes a convincing and zealous screen queen who come the plots masterfully nihilistic denouement captures the sense of hopelessness rather well. The conclusion was the previous films best asset and here it’s also good, but not quite as good. [REC] used the slow burn tension so well in this segment; Quarantine captures the sense of chaos effectively but doesn’t really pack the same nightmarish impact. Maybe the ending just doesn’t work perfectly twice, but personally for my money the slightly subtler and drawn out nature of the Spanish’s flicks finish is the difference. It built the fear so masterfully; Quarantine just lets it loose as fast and furiously as possible.

Quarantine will probably work for those unfamiliar with its source but for the rest it’s just going to feel like an unnecessary retread for those too lazy to search out the original. It’s not a worthless cinematic endeavor but ultimately with a superior version on the market, Dowdle’s movie is never going to be remembered and with such lazy reverence to the original, that is probably deserved.



A review by Daniel Kelly, 2009

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