"[REC]" - Zombie Movie Review

Updated on May 22, 2019
Sam Shepards profile image

Hi, I'm Sam, I love movies. My main interest is science fiction and zombie movies. Pessimistic and survival films I also enjoy a lot.

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[REC] starts, pun-intended, at the exact moment when the cameraman pushes the "REC" button.

Reporter Angela Vidal (Manuela Velasco) and cameraman Pablo (Pablo Rosso) have started recording their TV Show "While You're Sleeping", focused on showing the stories of night workers.

Tonight, the special is focused on the shift of a local fire station in Barcelona. After a few hours of just idle boring stuff at the firehouse, Angela gets what she wants; an emergency call that allows her to accompany the firefighters to do their actual work.

Everyone arrives at the small three-story building where the call was made. The neighbors have heard old Mrs. Izquierdo (Martha Carbonell) scream agonizingly, and they haven't been able to enter her apartment.

The firemen and the police manage to enter the apartment, only to find Mrs. Izquierdo covered in blood and in a strange state. Mrs. Izquierdo suddenly attacks one of the police officers, tearing her neck in the process. Everything, of course, is captured on camera.

When the firemen and the security building guard arrive at the lobby to seek medical attention for the poor dying policeman, they are surprised by the fact that the police and the military have cordoned off the street and sealed all exits of the building. A high-level health inspection commission will soon arrive to verify the existence of a possible biological threat.

That threat, of course, will escalate and take more victims, while the residents will be left with exponentially fewer spaces and exits.

[REC] is a rare case where found footage works beautifully. This is a horror story about zombies, with a more complex mystery background between science and religion. Not for nothing, the famous video game Outlast is directly inspired by this film.

[REC] also feeds on the dark side of living in a community. So many different family dynamics exposed and forced to suddenly survive together end up fueling prejudices (The scene where an Argentine immigrant makes passive xenophobic attacks towards an Asian family is a wonder) and an absurd power dynamic.

Watching [REC] is not exactly a pleasant experience. The vast majority of the time, multiple hysterical characters are screaming at each other at truly unbearable levels. It's easy to want to also yell at the screen so everyone will relax.

That, however, is the necessary price to pay. [REC] works beautifully because it feels real and you need much more than just the found footage technical gimmick to achieve that.

The casting department got it right by selecting unknown actors and actresses. The only exception is Manuela Velasco, and it is for a logical reason: in real life, she is also a TV hostess, so being the only character with a certain dose of fame, that choice makes perfect sense.

[REC] also benefited from being able to shoot in chronological order, something that almost no project can do for operational costs. That allowed to have more control over the building atmosphere and the mental situation of each character.

As a final strategy to get the best possible performances in a single shaky camera take, there is the fact that directors Paco Plaza and Jaume Balaguero never delivered an entire script to their cast, but segmented the individual scripts (thanks to the fact that the film was shot chronologically) daily, achieving that the actors could more easily enter their situation of uncertainty and tension, by actually not knowing their fates.

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For a movie where the cast begins to scream and run inside of a little building at the 30 minute mark, [REC] achieves the great merit of developing tension and progressively worsening the nightmare.

[REC] is an obvious result of the trend of the found footage popularized by The Blair Witch Project, but it also marks a necessary evolution of the sub-genre.

Because in more ways than one, [REC] is the opposite of The Blair Witch Project. Where the fear of the 99 movie was based on what we couldn't really see, in [REC] the horror is precisely what invades the every day of a local TV show report.

That's why its last minutes are memorably creepy.

The resource of the night vision, also popularized by The Blair Witch Project, works in another completely different level here, by clearly and uniquely showing the actual threat.

The chilling design of La Niña Medeiros, along with a great makeup work and a great performance by Javier Botet (an actor with Marfan Syndrome) completely ensured that [REC] belongs now to the pantheon of great horror films. The movie has also been remade for the US, namely Quarantine.

Movie Details

Title: [REC]

Release Year: 2007

Director(s): Jaume Balagueró, Paco Plaza

Actors: Manuela Velasco, Ferran Terraza, Jorge-Yamam Serrano, a.o.

4 stars for [REC] (2007)

© 2019 Sam Shepards

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