A little while back I posted asking what zombies people would like to see me add to this blog. The one great comment I got was a request from Zombease to post an illustration of the [Rec]3 girl which I intend to post later this week. (Stay tuned.) The trouble was I hadn’t actually sat down to watch the [Rec] series! How I managed to miss seeing them even though I knew the name was a bit of a mystery I intended to fix right away. And since I liked them so much and since I haven’t done any movie reviews for a while I thought this week would be a good chance to go through the [Rec] series for a few quick reviews.
One of the things that might have kept me off seeing [Rec] was this poster image. I’ve seen it around and it just didn’t sell me. Back when the Blair Witch Project came out I was rather taken with the documentary style first person (sort of) perspective of the action. It was creative fun and terrifying. But there have been a lot of imitators since then and when I saw this was that sort of horror movie I just wasn’t interested. I had the feeling it was just another cheap horror movie knocked off in a week or two and not really all that creative. I also had seen the previews for Paranormal Activity and assumed it was just something along those lines.
I was both right and wrong.
Stylistically I was right about the movie and how it’s filmed. It plays the same tricks we see in the Blair Witch Project through rough, realistic acting that just doesn’t look like acting, cheap, believable sets and loads of hurky jerky shots that leave you wondering what it was you just saw. It’s something that works brilliantly when it’s done right and just seems cheesy when it’s done wrong.
[Rec] does it fairly well. Lots of shots in the movie are just too perfect and feel a bit staged. Particularly the shot of the main character staring into the night vision camera and getting sucked into the darkness by something we cannot see. It’s a great shot but it’s just too great. The whole appeal of this type of film making is that it doesn’t feel like a movie, that it feels like something that really happened and we’re just seeing the home movie of the entire event.
The movie redeems itself in a number of nice story elements and great scares though.
There is doubt sewn throughout the movie as to who exactly the “sick” person was who started the outbreak in the movie. Was it the sick little girl whose mother insists she just has tonsillitis? Is it the Chinese woman’s sick father who is somewhere on the floors above sick in bed? Was it the little girls dog? This guessing game goes on till the end of the movie and isn’t really explained until the sequel. It both reminds us that we are watching a movie because of the carefully staged way the information comes out and keeps us wondering and interested in what’s going on.
The assumption through the whole movie is that this is another medical outbreak or disease gone mad but near the end we get a great twist in that we find the medical element of the outbreak was actually the result of a medical experiment run by the Catholic church. This makes sense in the highly Christian culture of Spain where the film was made and is set. The idea of a Vatican-lead investigation into possession going horribly wrong fits perfectly.
What I love though is that it’s not really clear that this is quite what happened until the end of the film and even then we aren’t totally sure what the hell was going on. Breaking into the penthouse the last survivors find a crawl space into the attic where a zombie boy attacks and breaks the camera in a scene lifted right out of Aliens where Hicks pokes open a panel and looks into the drop ceiling to find aliens on the approach.
Nevertheless the movie comes to a close with a horrible look at the wasted form of one of my favorite demonic zombies:
I just find her so horrible that it’s impossible to look away from her. She’s wasted and sickly and sad. She’s a victim of demonic possession who has been used and abused and turned into something inhuman and horrible. She didn’t want to be this thing she became. She probably had dreams and ideas about her life and then it all went to hell. Seeing her, quietly lurking and shaking in the darkness, silently stalking and seeking out the last two survivors . . . wonderful ending to a movie and an interesting beginning to a series.