Rating: Rated MS 15+ (strong horror violence)
This is scary stuff, especially for those who have not seen the original Spanish film, Rec, which was in cinemas less than a year before this remake. Rec was a brisk 80 minutes or so. Quarantine is a little longer, mainly because of a stronger development of the opening sequences, setting the scene with a television reporter following a firefighting squad. Otherwise, the remake follows the original quite faithfully while taking the opportunity to make a few adjustments.
Almost ten years ago, The Blair Witch Project successfully persuaded many film-makers that they could make their films more 'realistic' and 'atmospheric' if they used hand-held cameras to place the audience in the middle of the action. Digital cameras have developed this capacity since then – seen to effect in 2008 in the monster thriller Cloverfield and in George A Romero's latest zombie episode, Diary of the Dead.
The premiss of Rec and Quarantine is quite straightforward: firefighters and police (with the television reporter and her cameraman in tow) are called to an apartment where some of the residents are sick. Almost immediately they are closed in by the authorities without explanation (which does come later so that audiences are satisfied that there is a reason for the turmoil and the fear, reminiscent of 28 Days Later and 28 Weeks Later). With the hand-held camera and the action taking place within the building, there is a claustrophobic effect, the audience knowing something of what the residents are feeling.
This is why the film is so effective. This could happen in our terrorism-anguished age. Authorities could seal up a building, trapping police, firefighters and residents. People in panic do behave like this. Faced with imminent and ugly death from a mysterious infection, how would we react? And it all takes place overnight, more and more in the dark.
The device of having a TV camera operator filming all the time, with interruptions, threats to himself and his aiding his more and more hysterical reporter adds to the tension.
In terms of classification, the UK censors gave it an 18, maybe because of its 'realism' but it is far more real and challenging than many of the hyped-up horror and violent action shows that receive a 15 classification.
Out Now Sony
Fr Peter Malone MSC directs the film desk of SIGNIS: the World Association of Catholic Communicators, and is an associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film & Broadcasting.