Quarantine (2008)

In 2007 a movie called [REC] was released in Spain.  A found footage horror film about a television crew trapped in a Barcelona apartment building during the outbreak of a deadly virus, it was originally meant to go straight to DVD but was deemed good enough for theatrical release.  The original movie earned a fair bit of critical acclaim and was a standout in the genre. 

Despite its popularity in Europe it did not immediately make it over to the United States.  In fact it seemed like there was a concerted effort to make sure the movie didn't make it here, at least not until Hollywood had a go at it.  Although ultimately forced to admit that it was based on the movie by Paco Plaza and Jaume Belagueró, initially this was marketed in a way that made it seem like a purely original addition to found footage horror that was popular at the time.  

Angela Vidal (Jennifer Carpenter), a news reporter for a  Los Angeles television station, is doing a report on the nighttime doings of a local fire department along with her cameraman Scott (Steve Harris).  The two are assigned to shadow Jake (Jay Hernandez) and Fletcher (Johnathan Schaech) for the night, and they join them on a call to a local apartment building that has reported one of the elderly tenants being in distress.  Officer Danny Wilensky (Columbus Short) and his partner are already on the scene and, after checking on the resident named Mrs. Espinoza (Jeannie Epper), Wilensky's partner is attacked, as is Fletcher soon after.

When attempting to get the two men out of the building for treatment the residents find the doors locked by order of the CDC, and are gradually cut off from other communication.  It turns out that Mrs. Espinoza had a weaponized form of rabies which causes its victims to display violent symptoms.  Soon the survivors find themselves doing what they can to survive as it becomes clear that the government means to contain the outbreak at any cost. 

Where the original [REC] was made in an actual Barcelona apartment building, Quarantine was a set built to mimic the original.  Also, while the original was scripted, it relied heavily on the actors to improvise throughout, and they were often told little of what would be happening so that Plaza and Belagueró were able to get genuine reactions from their cast.  That is one of the main things missing in Quarantine; it seems tightly scripted, right down to the improvised lines from the original, with nothing coming as a surprise.  Although there are a few scenes that were added or changed, thus giving director John Erick Dowdle the reason to slap his name on the project as one of the screenwriters, this is largely a shot-by-shot remake of the original.  

Which means, other than for some American audiences being adverse to subtitles, Quarantine really is an unnecessary movie.  It doesn't have the tension of the original, nor the unpredictability, because of Dowdle's reluctance to stray at all from what happened in [REC].  The only big change is the cause of the virus as the whole demonic possession angle was dropped, thus necessitating that this be something created by a doomsday cult rather than the Catholic church.  Also, the marketing for this is horrible, meaning I might as well reveal spoilers as the main poster art and the trailer both showed the end of the movie, with Angela being dragged away at the end just as she was in the original.

While the original movie is still 99 percent here, thus not completely relegating this to the trash heap of terrible remakes, the original became available in the U.S. with the advent of [REC] 2, which pretty much followed on the heels of Quarantine and, over time, has earned the reputation it deserved.  In the end probably the only good it did was kick some royalties over to the original film makers so they could continue their series, but otherwise Quarantine exists for no other reason than to make a studio a quick buck.

Quarantine (2008)
Time: 89 minutes
Starring: Jennifer Carpenter, Steve Harris, Jay Hernandez, Columbus Short
Director: John Erick Dowdle



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