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Quarantine

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Quarantine
Released on Friday, Nov 21 2008

Director: John Erick Dowdle
Screenwriters: John Erick Dowdle, Drew Dowdle
Starring: Jennifer Carpenter, Jay Hernandez, Steve Harris, Columbus Short, Johnathon Schaech, Greg Germann, Dania Ramirez
Running Time: 89 mins
Certificate: 18

Quarantine is a complete waste of time for anyone who's seen [REC], the down and dirty Spanish-language horror released in the UK in April. A remake turned around at lighting speed, Quarantine epitomises the lazy Hollywood filmmaking mantra that seems to plague the horror genre. It took nearly 30 years for the ultimate shocker classic Halloween to get remade - now rehashed versions of horrors are arriving barely as the original has left theatres.

Quarantine's conceit involves TV reporter Angela Vidal's (Carpenter) ill-fated final broadcast. The movie, like Cloverfield, plays out as if a tape recording of the ordeal has been recovered. Filming a late-night fluff segment on the Los Angeles fire department with cameraman Steve (Harris), it follows the emergency services as they are called out to a disturbance at a nearby apartment complex. When it transpires that one woman has been infected with a virus that turns its victims into frenzied zombies, the US government sections off the building, leaving the residents to fend for themselves.

Director John Erick Dowdle's fidelity to the Spanish original both helps and holds back this movie due to the mere fact that pretty much every single thing about [REC] - plot, dialogue, "jump" moments and camera angles - is ported across to the remake, to the point where you believe that writers Dowdle and brother Drew may have put the original script through Google Translate.

The concept is executed with a modicum of efficiency but its derivative nature and plot and character deficiencies make it a difficult movie to get enthusiastic about. The vérité style popularised by The Blair Witch Project gives a nice variation to the standard horror movie aesthetic, and is responsible for one of the few moments of originality in Quarantine, where Steve bludgeons to death a zombie using his camera. The subsequent image of a shell-shocked Angela seen through a bloodstained lens is a striking one.

Quarantine's cast are a motley crew of TV actors (Carpenter, Ramirez, Germann) and bit-part film players (Hernandez, Short) - which doesn't help sell the realism angle, pulling you out of the action when the guy from Ally McBeal turns up playing a vet. Part of [REC]'s effectiveness was in having actors unrecognisable to the majority of filmgoers.

Carpenter, a brassy and tomboyish presence in Dexter, is brassy and tomboyish as Angela - though her regression into a shrieking, babbling mess mirrors the movie's decline. She begins as a tough and resilient character, the archetypal horror genre's "final girl". However, when trouble kicks in she melts down and turns passive, gradually shedding layers of clothing and becoming much like any other scream queen. Moreover, the edge-of-you-seat tension that builds in the middle section of Quarantine (and this is a problem it shares with [REC]) is thrown away in favour of an everything-and-the-kitchen-sink last 20 minutes employing easy jump scare tricks.

Quarantine is a movie for genre completists only, though said aficionados will likely have already seen the much superior [REC]. Intriguingly, a [REC] 2 is currently in production in Spain. It wouldn't be wise to rule out Quarantine's producers, in desperation for another quickie horror hit, managing to get their sequel into cinemas faster than the [REC] team.


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