August 13, 2012

Quarantine (2008)

"A television reporter and her cameraman are trapped inside a building quarantined by the CDC after the outbreak of a mysterious virus which turns humans into bloodthirsty killers."

It's funny how horror movie tastes can change as you get older, isn't it? I had actually written "Quarantine" off as a movie which I would never review due it being an inferior remake until I watched it again before I did my recent mini-podcast on the "[REC]" series. Not only did I watch it twice more after that, but I really liked it.

Obviously, I didn't like it as much as Brad Miska who was quoted on the DVD sleeve as saying, "Quite possibly the best horror film this year." Although the word "possibly" gives some room for not appearing to be a total sellout, there's no way that "Quarantine" was even in the running for being the best horror movie of 2008. I'm pretty sure that "Let the Right One In" had that honour plus "[REC]" (2007) was being purchased as an alternative to the remake by just as many people.

The trouble with "Quarantine" will always be that it was a dumbed down remake with too many recognisable actors in it to ever compete with the more realistic (and less staged) look of "[REC]", but four years on, it's now quite entertaining for those very reasons.

What I liked most was how a lot more was made of the scenes with the firemen in "Quarantine". The American version of Angela Vidal, played by Jennifer Carpenter (from "The Exorcism of Emily Rose"), came across as a lot more genuine and playful with the firemen than the Spanish version who gave away that she was very two-faced quite early on. It was also interesting to see how only 6 minutes of extra footage in the fire station helped to flesh out the characters and make it possible to care about them.

Casting Jay Hernandex from "Hostel" (2005) as a fireman was a huge giveaway for horror fans that the found footage wasn't real, but Greg Germann from "Ally McBeal" who played the vet was a far too recognisable face for other viewers. To their credit, Sony didn't even pretend that this was anything other than a remake.

One thing which was definitely improved was being able to put a name to the falling fireman. Having got to know Fletcher (Johnathon Schaech) a little bit beforehand made that moment quite tragic. Changing the nationality of the immigrants to Africans rather than a Japanese family was unnecessary though since the xenophobic comment about them would still have worked and come across as just as racist anyway.

For some reason, possibly jealousy, a lot of "[REC]" fans didn't think much of Jennifer Carpenter at the time. Either it was her looks or her acting ability (or both) which got them bent out of shape, but I didn't find anything wrong with her. She was slightly better looking facially than Manuela Velasco, but her body wasn't quite as toned or sexy, so it's a case of swings and roundabouts there. As for her acting ability, she did really well before her character was forced into conforming to the scene for scene remake process. Hysteria even made the Spanish version of Angela Vidal inconsistent.

Ignoring the supernatural explanation at the end of "[REC]" made the newspaper clippings and tape recorder scene far too rushed (and a little bit redundant), but really that was the only obviously bad part of the whole film. The jump scares were all the same.

As for everything else in "Quarantine", including the practical effects by Robert Hall and his team, there was nothing wrong with any of it. "Quarantine" just wasn't original and so it will always be the weaker of the two films for most people.

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