If I’ve learned one thing from participating in this 31 Days of Horror blog challenge, it’s that non-Hollywood film offers the best chill for your buck.
The studios have the cash, but the indie and international films have mastered the fine art of using their limitations creatively to scare the living pants off you – witness Spain’s (Rec) from 2007.
As directed by Jaume Balaguero & Paco Plaza, “(Rec)” relates the story of Angela (Manuela Velasco), a local TV presenter in Barcelona fronting the show “While You’re Asleep”. Angela’s beat is to follow people who work whilst the wider world slumbers and on this night, she’s shadowing guys from the local fire station. She’s convinced that she’s in for a dull show until a call comes in from an apartment building.
The crew are called to rescue a confused elderly woman locked in her apartment. On closer inspection she’s covered in blood and a wee bit bitey. Angela and her long-suffering cameraman Pablo capture everything as the elderly woman attacks the firemen, mortally wounding their supervisor. From that point, the fit really hits the shan as the local police and military seal off the building, trapping the remaining tenants inside with an increasing complement of feral, meat-crazed, virally-created predators. The survivors numbers drop by the minute until only Angela and Pablo are left to document the horror, culminating in a visit to the mysteriously locked and sealed-off apartment at the top of the building.
It is here in the last twenty minutes of the film that Balaguero and Plaza really get their hooks into you, with the found footage conceit working at its peak effectiveness and Velasco’s embodiment of abject terror being totally convincing. The combination of performance, staging, cinematography and direction conspire to utterly grip and even scare the viewer – the first time in this 31 Days of Halloween Hysteria that I’ve actually been on the edge of my seat and frightened by the film.
That “(Rec)” is a scant 75 minutes in length is also of note – it makes you wonder why more directors don’t just get in, scare the bejesus out of their audiences and then drop the mic in triumph.
Two follow-ups have been released to date, with a fourth due imminently – the parallel sequel “(Rec 2)”, hybrid prequel/sequel “(Rec 3: Genesis)” and final instalment “(Rec 4: Apocalypse)”. Two American films remade the franchise for subtitle-averse audiences in the form of “Quarantine” and “Quarantine 2: Terminal”. Whilst it would be foolish to judge a film without seeing it, the fact that the cover art for the US remake appears to give away the very last moments of the movie doesn’t exactly inspire me with confidence.
Still, “(Rec)” is a cracking horror movie on it’s own and I’m going to continue to watch the rest of the series with great interest to see how this refreshingly scary take on the zombie genre develops.