By Scott Martin
[REC], Spain, 2007
Directed by Jaume Balaguero and Paco Plaza
I’m immediately reminded of The Blair Witch Project (1999) whenever someone brings up this 2007 Spanish film. Blair Witch, though, has the upper hand on several levels, the first and most major being its marketing. The shrewd execution of this campaign managed to invoke glorious word of mouth and gather a slew of followers before the film was ever released. Another level is the complete no-name cast, which allowed for Blair Witch‘s seemingly student-film style to be swallowed whole by the audience. Justly, this became one of the most profitable films of all-time, made for roughly $60,000 dollars and grossing nearly $250 million worldwide. In [REC]‘s case, such a campaign was never employed, and while that doesn’t hinder the viewing experience, it certainly wasn’t beneficial to the film.
Set in Barcelona, the film centers on reporter Angela Vidal (Manuela Velasco) and her cameraman Pablo (Pablo Rosso), who are taping a night at the local firehouse for their television series While You Sleep. A distress call comes over the radio, and the crew rushes to an old apartment complex where screams and violent noises were heard. The contents of the first-person film show exactly what happens on this fateful, terrible night.
Jaume Balaguero and Paco Plaza directed this Spanish-language horror film, and while it’s certainly not the first of its kind, it might be the most effective. Banking on the success of the viral undead from Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later … (2002) and the kick-ass fast zombies of Zack Snyder’s 2004 Dawn of the Dead reboot, Balaguero and Plaza meld the two films together with a dash of documentary-style flare and deliver a very clever, very emotional one-two punch. It takes reality completely into account and understands that the audience is dropped right into the middle of the action. There isn’t much time for character development, nor is there much need. If you can’t find it in your heart to care for these people in their given circumstances, this is not the film for you.
There are a handful of very conventional horror movie moments, though, that seem to slow down the process of the film. A small amount of the scares are easy to spot from a mile away and there is questionable dialogue. There are also a couple of supporting characters that can’t seem to be quiet, but even though they seem out-of-place, that’s part of life, and the goal of the film is to breathe regular life into extraordinary events, so they get a pass.
One scene in particular that truly made me sit up and pay attention, wondering if it would be handled well or botched completely, is the discovery of a small temple/workshop by the reporter and her cameraman. The scene manages to tie several loose ends together without seeming heavy-handed or politically religious.
[REC] is an incredibly thrilling film. The small negatives are greatly outweighed by the large positives, the performances are pitch-perfect (especially Velasco and Ferran Terraza as our lead reporter and Manu, a fireman, respectively) and the direction is intensely personal. Our preconceptions regarding paranoia, claustrophobia, and what it is that really goes bump in the night are flipped upside down, rarely giving the audience a moment of peace.
Contact the author: ScottMartin@MoviesIDidntGet.com