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Subtitles Are Hard: "Quarantine" Review

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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Quarantine starts at the exact moment when the cameraman pushes the "REC" button.

Reporter Angela Vidal (Jennifer Carpenter) and cameraman Scott (Steve Harris) have started recording their TV Show “Night Shift", focused on showing the stories of night workers.

The special today is focused on the night shift of a local fire station in Los Angeles. 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. Espinoza (Jeannie Epper) scream agonizingly, and they haven't been able to enter her apartment.

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

When the firemen return to the lobby to seek medical attention for the poor dying policeman, they are surprised for the fact that the police, the military, and the CDC 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.

That's Quarantine. An OK found footage movie about a zombie outbreak motivated by what we believe is a new strain of rabies.

Quarantine has only one small problem. A small detail, if you will. And it is that this movie had already been made the previous year, with better quality. Only in another language.

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Yes, Quarantine is a shameless carbon copy of [REC]. Same premise, same characters, same shots, same turns, identical location. Quarantine doesn't make the minimum effort to really adapt the original story of Paco Cabezas, Luis Berdejo, and Jaume Balaguero to the Californian setting in which it develops.

That is why the first paragraphs of this review were identical to the review we wrote about [REC]. We were proving a point.

The only notable difference between the two films is that in Quarantine, the cast speaks English. Because, definitely, reading subtitles seems to be very difficult for US audiences.

That's the only reason why Quarantine exists. The lazy reader habit of the US population. And when a movie exists only to prevent your audience from reading some lines, its reason for existing suddenly seem not to be very compelling.

Yes. Quarantine is a completely unnecessary effort.

And it's a shame, because the work of Jennifer Carpenter (who already had been attracting glances for her work in The Exorcism of Emily Rose and the TV show Dexter), is really good. Her version of Angela Vidal is a flirty, more restrained scream queen.

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Quarantine eliminates the religious subtext of the original, focusing on the medical reason of a new type of rabies as the main explanation for the outbreak. Yes, the creepy attic still exists, but the hints point to a chemical weapon released by a doomsday cult and not to a scientific experiment based on demonic possessions. La Niña Medeiros, a fundamental part of the mythos of [REC], simply does not exist in Quarantine.

The work of Doug Jones as the "Thin Infected Man" should have been a guaranteed shot, like everything Jones does (Hellboy, Pan's Labyrinth, The Shape Of Water), but the truth is that it just doesn't have the same impact that the disturbing Niña Medeiros played by Javier Botet.

John Erick Dowdle does a good job directing, even in the smallest differences in the blocking of the scenes, but the truth is that Quarantine feels so unoriginal, that it feels forced. The cast has undeniable talent in names like Steve Harris, Jay Hernandez, Greg Germann and Marin Hinkle, but in general, the performances feel too rehearsed.

Perhaps one of the few silver linings of this unnecessary effort is that Quarantine ended up giving more popularity to the original little Spanish movie. Fans of the genre who still didn't know the previous version turned—and read subtitles without difficulties—to [REC].

That, and that its failure at the premiere was so resounding, that it was defeated by Beverly Hills Chihuahua, (on its second weekend!), which is hilarious. I repeat: Beverly Hills Chihuahua. Thank you, dumb family movie about talking dogs.

Movie Details

Title: Quarantine

Release Year: 2008

Director(s): John Erick Dowdle

Actors: Jennifer Carpenter, Steve Harris, Columbus Short, a.o.

© 2019 Sam Shepards