Thursday, March 12, 2009


Watching Quarantine reminded me of Watchmen villain Adrian Veidt's ultimate solution to the threat of nuclear conflict, how the sacrifice of millions of lives may ultimately save billions. In the morality of the story's world Veidt's actions were probably correct, but it's hard cheese for his victims.

Quarantine is the story told from the point of view of the victims.

In brief, the story is about a group of people trapped in an apartment building when an outbreak of (say it with a straight face) super-rabies begins infecting the tenants. The story is told from the point of view of a news crew who follow the first responders into the building, then struggle to capture the story as the CDC cordons off the building. The enforced isolation, the informational blackout, and the intense suppression by military forces make a straightforward, zombie-esque tale all the more terrifying.

Let's get something out of the way: I haven't seen REC, the Spanish film Quarantine remakes. I know, that makes me a bad horror fan but there are only so many hours in the day. As such I can't write a snotty, pretentious, pajiba-style review comparing the two, with arch comments about people's capacity to read subtitles. They sound really damned similar, the only difference being the Vatican stuff has been replaced by allusions to a doomsday cult terror attack.

Anyway, I really liked this movie. It scared the bejeezus out of me, the whole thing remained punchy and engaging, and it had the integrity to take the grim nature of the story to a fitting conclusion.

POV Horror tends to be good at generating the one strong defining image. In Blair Witch Project it's the often-parodied confession scene, in Cloverfield it's the Statue of Liberty's mauled head clanging toward the viewer. In Quarantine, it's the night vision shot of poor Angela crawling toward the camera, only to be dragged away into the darkness. It's a powerful image, used regularly in posters and trailers, but it also gives away the ending. There are a lot of people in Horrortown who are pissed off by the advertiser's willingness to compromise the story, which I think is a bit silly. The characters in the film KNOW they aren't getting out alive, and that fatalism lends a real horrific tone to the proceedings. You leave the tale knowing it's not safe, the world is not okay, the monsters are still out there, and that they often win. Creepy.

Ultimately, Quarantine is a precisely-designed spectacle. I greatly enjoyed it while I was watching it and would highly recommend it to anyone wanting a relentless and uncompromising horror film, but it's not going to go down as one of my favorite genre pieces. The pacing is too quick to allow much characterization, so you're treated to a well-crafted horror show. I really should have seen this in theaters.

Side note: Here's a nifty little video I found of the Knott's Scary Farm's Quarantine Haunted House.


Culture Of None said...

I saw '[REC]' before seeing 'Quarantine'...and I can confidently say the original is the superior film. The subtitles/language matter actually lends to the horror - gives it a "this is REALLY happening somewhere else on the globe" feel. The religious/demonic possession stuff in the closing scene apartment has more impact and creepiness...not to mention that the final monster is much more disturbing to watch. That's my endorsement, they are by and large very similar films though : )

Creature said...

One of the big things that made me want to check out [REC] was the whole demonic possession angle. While I do love movies like The Exorcist and Drag Me To Hell, I don't know if I would accept them as part of a gritty This-Could-Actually-Happen vibe of Quarantine. I find that the more supernatural a story gets, the more I approach it as a comic book and the effectiveness of Quarantine was how real it seemed. On the other hand, I love and will always defend the Blair Witch Project, so maybe I'm a hypocrite. Still, gotta get a copy of [REC] soon...