Reel Society

Reviews for the latest movies in theaters and on DVD.



Review by Don Hill

As some of you may be aware, Quarantine is a remake of a Spanish horror movie entitled [Rec].  By all accounts, Rec is a fantastic horror movie although I have not seen it (yet).    Generally I have very little praise for a remake of a horror movie unless the new version makes some drastic changes or improves on the original in some way or in the extreme case that the original wasn’t very good to begin with.  What I can say is that Quarantine is a phenomenal horror movie. 

A news reporter follows a fire department for a weekend for a story.  After roughly 20 minutes of background, character development and such we are called to an apartment complex and Angie the reporter and her trusty sidekick, Scott the cameraman, join the crew on a call.  When they arrive they find that a mysterious illness as befallen an elderly woman, who promptly attacks and bites a friendly neighborhood police officer.  As the crew and the apartment denizens attempt to leave the complex with the wounded officer, they find themselves locked in by the CDC and a military battalion.  They have been quarantined in the complex in order to stop the spread of the disease, the disease that is now passing swiftly among the group. 

From there the scares come fast and hard throughout the entire last hour of the movie.  The entire audience was into the movie, with shrieks, cheers and embarrassed laughter after several huge scares that made the crowd jump.  The acting was decent, certainly good enough for this type of movie.  Horror veterans Jennifer Campbell and Jay Hernandez lead the mostly unknown cast sprinkled with a few bit players.  Campbell certainly reminds me of the scream queens of old as she navigates this role.

Yes that’s right.  I loved this movie.  It is the kind of horror that most directors and writers try to make and fail.  I have been a horror movie fan since I was about 9 years old and Freddy scared the hell out of me and kept me from sleeping for days on end.  I have seen hundreds of horror movies from all over the world and I am generally pretty blasé about them, but not so here… in fact, my wife about broke my fingers a few times when she jumped and screamed during the movie.  Yes, screamed, out loud in a theater full of people, which would have been embarrassing if she had not been one of 20-30 screams echoing in the theater.

This movie did everything right as far as the scares go.  The make-up job was exceptional and very creepy.  Just be warned:  for those who hated the shaky-cam of The Blair Witch Project, you will be just as disappointed here.  Personally, I love the “in the movie” look and feel of this type of filming.  It has been tried since but never has a movie duplicated the chills of Blair Witch (and no, not even Cloverfield).  Quarantine succeeded with the handy-cam look and intensity and passed with flying colors.  Check this film out if you like being scared and creeped out.  Just don’t buy any popcorn and make sure your drink is in the cup holder, not in your hands.

4 ½ / 5 stars


Review by Paul Edwards

The Blair Witch Project. Cloverfield. Quarantine. What do they have in common? Viral campaigns and a shaky-cam gimmick that allegedly puts the viewer more in touch with the characters involved in these chaotic and tragic events. On the other hand, if they don’t work out as well as they hoped, it induces headaches, motion sickness and general feelings of apathy.

Quarantine, at times, was a very involving piece, in which there were some genuine thrills.  On the other hand, the over-the-top (and sometimes nonexistent) performances by some of the characters that we are supposed to feel a connection with makes it all one big disconnected mess, with a predictable storyline that just makes the credits that much longer to get to.

The story starts with news reporter Angela Vidal (played at times admirably and at times annoyingly by Jennifer Carpenter) and Scott Percival, her cameraman, shadows a group of firemen on their daily routine. It all seems very well done and is intriguing, as we get to know how the characters feel for one another and the daily going-on of a fire station. However, there are not-too-subtle signs that this will all come crashing down, which is unfortunate, since it was actually the best part of the movie. Anyway, after many calls for action “it” finally comes, and Angela and Scott ride down to where the emergency is taking place

Upon arriving at the site, both the movie we have slowly come to know and all the early promise it showed go down the toilet, as we meet a myriad of foils and one-dimensional characters whose only talent seems to be messing things up and/or starting fights with one another.   It was at this point that my apathy set in and I lost my connection to the smiling, naïve newswoman and her slightly overprotective cameraman.  It was also at this point that the ridiculousness of their actions began to nakedly expose themselves.

The constant screaming at people who are frothing at the mouth, the cheap scare tactics and what I like to call “false alarms” began to pop up, including the breakdown of all familiar relationships in favor of fighting and yelling and mindless mayhem.  (Imagine if 28 Weeks Later and Day of the Dead became encapsulated inside one apartment complex.)

Carrying the comparison one step further, Day of the Dead worked because the focus was not on the zombies or the infected in that movie, but rather the people trying to escape from them.  When the zombies attacked in that film, the interpersonal relationships between the characters remained the same.  Quarantine started down this road, building up the rapport in the first act of the film; but once the crisis hit in full force, all of this was abandoned in favor of a general sense of chaos.  What made it even worse was that in the end, there was not one single character that was charismatic or even mildly interesting. I mean, I could have cared about Angela, but rather than act as a strong authority figure, she turned into a sobbing mess incapable of even forming complete sentences. And then when her cameraman tried to comfort her, it sounded more fake than an episode of Jerry Springer.

I would give this film a marginal recommendation, but only if you are in the need for a scare or two before Saw V comes out.  If, however, you’re in the mood for a well-crafted horror film, you’d do well to look elsewhere.

2 ½ / 5 stars

Review by Andrew Roode

There must have been comedians in the projection booth the night that some friends and I went to see a family friendly film. These particular friends tend to watch only light-hearted material and get upset for weeks whenever they see horror films or intense thrillers. They were totally unprepared for a Quarantine trailer and it shocked them all so badly that we nearly had to leave and get our money back. Maybe it was because of their strong reaction that my interest in the film has stayed so high for the past several months.
This week I have seen both Quarantine and [Rec] (the Spanish-language film that Quarantine is a remake of). [Rec] is not without flaws but it is a very solid and chilling horror film. Quarantine is able to expand on several of the strengths in [Rec] while falling into a few pitfalls of its own. Both films are about a TV news crew taping a show about what a night in the life of a fireman is like. A seemingly routine call turns out to be something much more, and the news crew is trapped in a then-sealed-off building.

Giving credit where it is due, Quarantine kept me on the edge of my seat for most of the movie. It lures you in with a very relaxed opening ten minutes but once you reach the building and the cop in charge asks why the camera crew is there, the whole tone of the movie changes. The fun and games, the light-hearted banter is gone. For me, the tension starts with the entrance to the apartment and never lets up. The set design and the lighting are terrific and Quarantine walks a careful tightrope of character action. So often in horror films the audience is yelling with frustration at what characters on the screen are doing because it all goes against common sense. There is a little bit of that early on, but Quarantine does a better job of playing to the characters and their panic than most. Characters die not through naivety or stupidity as much as they do from inevitability and inescapability. The key performance comes from Jennifer Carpenter.

The film's greatest strength and weakness at the same time, Carpenter is the focus of the camera because of her role as the reporter and it isn't an easy part to play. She is solid for the majority of the film but terror essentially overwhelms her with ten minutes to go and she is reduced to a sobbing, shrieking, shivering bowl of Jell-O.  The problem is that there were three primary acting choices for her to make in the final ten minutes: she could play it as a hysteric (which she does), she could numb down her fear like the cameraman does in order to try and escape, or she could have been so overwhelmed by her fear that she becomes a functional catatonic working on autopilot. Carpenter's choice is probably the “truest” choice for how people would react, but that doesn't mean that it made for the best drama.  Her transformation from confident and outgoing to hysterical jabbering is so jarring that it feels forced instead of real. I found it to be just too much and actually pulled me out of the horror and towards comedy instead.

[Rec] felt a bit more organic and gritty than Quarantine did. The performances are decent in both but you feel less of a connection to the characters in Quarantine. Many are clearly there to serve as fodder with no attempt to seriously develop them. [Rec] does a much better job; the five minutes spent in the interviewing-the-residents sequences gave more of a stake to the audience into the well-being of those characters, an aspect that never really takes off in Quarantine.
One thing that I thought Quarantine did a much better job of, on the other hand, was in plot clarity and how they provided information. The clues to the source of what is going on are much more explicit and come very early in the movie. [Rec] dropped a few hints for the viewer to put together but relies on the final five minutes to give the major clues about the cause of the “crisis”. What menace is spreading is clearer in the remake and I thought the clarity benefited the plot.  Just don't blink or you'll miss everything you need to know.

I give the slight edge to [Rec], but certainly recommend Quarantine to horror fans. Its problems aren't severe enough to detract from a very decent effort.

3 ½ / 5 stars

Comments (1):

  • Ignop @ 10/15/2008 ( 11:34:44 AM )
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