Sunday, 15 March 2015


Some film enthusiasts hate remakes, that much is clear. On the bright side, John Erick Dowdle’s retread was a clear sign that Hollywood had taken a break from jumping all over popular Asian horror movies. Either that or the well had run dry. Quarantine is based upon the creepy Spanish offering [REC], directed by Paco Plaza and Jaume Balaguero in 2007. Quarantine came less than a year later, going down in history as one of the quickest remakes ever made. In fact, in some countries this version was released ahead of the film it was based on.

Television reporter Angela Vidal (Dexter's Jennifer Carpenter) and her cameraman are assigned to spend the night shift with the local fire station. Things take a turn for the worse when the crew they are filming is called out to an apartment building down town. The police have all ready arrived and blood curdling screams can be heard from one of the rooms above.

On entering the building the film crew, firemen, police officers and tenants discover that a terrifying virus has infected the old lady who lives upstairs. Soon they are trapped inside with her and as the situation deteriorates they discover that, in order to escape, they must be willing to fight for their lives. We follow every footstep as Angela tells her cameraman, "Film everything".  

The Spanish version wasn’t entirely original anyway, utilising the found footage formula that worked so well for The Blair Witch Project. The ravenous zombie-like creations were a damn site more interesting than snotty noses and twigs though.

[REC] capitalised on the nerve-shredding tension created by found footage thrillers when they're done right, oozing dread and fear from every frame. The creepy, isolated apartment block and creative camera work ensured that audiences didn’t have time to breathe, let alone hide behind their cushions. It was short, sharp and incredibly effective; a welcome dose of fear on a tiny budget. Part two was arguably even better.

Unlike most Hollywood remakes, Quarantine is a successful scare-fest from start to finish. The filmmakers are smart enough not to mess with the source material. At times in fact, Quarantine feels like a shot-for-shot remake. It’s not until later on that subtle differences become apparent, but the changes don't hurt the overall effect of the film. The look of the film is almost identical, especially when it comes to the apartment block itself. The budget is higher of course, meaning that the staging is a little crisper. A little crisper and a little less affecting as a result. 

The scares, however, are well handled throughout. Dowdle is wise to mix things up a little too, giving fans of the original something fresh to chew on. We're big fans of Jennifer Carpenter’s lungs here at Twistedwing and she puts them to good use in Quarantine, even if the continuous screaming does become a little tiresome towards the end. But then, we are talking about some deeply disturbing shit here so maybe we’ll cut her some slack. It's not like she can call upon her serial killer brother to bail her out. 

Quarantine has been dumbed down a little in translation. The original version hinted at a possible cause of the outbreak but left the viewer to fill in the blanks. It wasn't until the sequel came around that we got an explanation, and even that - the suggestion of demonic possession - was booted out in part four. Dowdle and his writing team make it clear what the cause of the outbreak is, and while some viewers may welcome the closure provided, I was more impressed by the 'less is more' approach of the original Spanish version.

Whether you've seen the original or not,  Quarantine comes as a pleasant surprise. The handheld approach is still an effective way of creating tension, despite the endless outpouring of found footage films, and the scares come thick and fast. It’s very rare that I enjoy a Hollywood remake, especially when I’m such a big fan of the source material, but John Erick Dowdle has delivered a welcome dose of Hollywood horror which keeps intact what was great about the original and adds a few neat twists of its own.

Looking back now, the found footage sub-genre had yet to run its course and most remakes were treated with disdain, but Quarantine came at a time when shaky-cam horror was fresh and quality remakes were few and far between. As a result, Quarantine is one of the better horror remakes out there. The fact that the sequel - which deviated form the Spanish series - sucked, speaks volumes, whereas [REC] 2 is one of the finest horror sequels ever made. Go figure.

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