[.REC]: THE REVIEW
Director: Jaume Balaguero, Paco Plaza Cast: Manuela Velasco, Ferran Terraza, Jorge-Yaman Serrano Plot: A television crew film a fire crew overnight for a documentary, praying for an interesting emergency in the night. They regret their wish.
[.REC] is one of those movies that I have been meaning to watch for ages now. I have heard nothing but good things about it from everyone that has braved this cult horror, but I haven’t made the time to go out and find this movie. Perhaps it is my lack of interest for the found footage genre. Perhaps I have just been too wimpy to actually brave the intense horror that [.REC] apparently held. However, for this Halloween, I decided it was now or never.
For the most part, [.REC] handles itself very well. It introduces us to our heroine, Angela, played with enthusiasm and spark by Manuela Velasco. She is an easy character to get behind. She is all smiles and warmth, yet she has a lack of empathy for anyone who isn’t involved in her documentary that makes her just flawed us to be interesting. This is the kind of film where character development is only so necessary. As soon as we like the characters enough to care for them, the horror kicks in and all arcs go out the window. The premise is neat enough to get us wrapped up in the story almost instantly. The fire crew get called into a house where an old woman is distressed. At first, it seems like a simple job (to Angela’s disappointment, they don’t even need the siren), but soon it turns out that something sinister is going on. The fire crew are attacked and before they can retreat, the building is put under lockdown from men in Hazmat suits. It turns out that they are involved in some form of chemical warfare that is unleashing horror upon the residents. Trapped, their only option is to investigate what is going on and try to escape, although chaos erupts from every direction they head off in.
Sadly, as [.REC] settles into its mid act, when the horror begins kicking in, things settle a little too much. The problem with films like [.REC] is that this sub-genre of horror has been done to death. It is a tough competition to cut through and while [.REC] is one of the better efforts, it does struggle to keep its head above the dozens of other movies out there just like this one. The found footage is quite good, better than most movies I have seen recently that use it. However, it is still found footage and some of the little tricks that the directors use that should come across scary, end up feeling a little ‘old-hat’. There is a jump scare and the camera pans down as the characters run away in panic. It is exciting because we have no idea what is going on, until the action is over. It used to be a neat piece of direction, but by now, it is just frustrating, because we never get a satisfying bigger picture. Other moments see the main characters step in front of the way of a crucial shot. It feels realistic, but realism can be over-rated, especially when it steps in the way of entertainment. At the same time, I understand that the tension and mystery that [.REC] needs to sustain itself is kept prolonged, because of the clever drip-feeding of visuals, thanks to the found footage method. It just keeps [.REC] grounded in average horror movie territory.
Surprisingly that isn’t my biggest problem with [.REC]. I came into the movie with little prior knowledge. I knew it was found footage, I knew it was meant to be terrifying and I knew it was Spanish. Otherwise, I had no idea what to expect from this movie, especially what the movie monster was. That is a rare experience these days, with most horrors advertising themselves as ‘haunted house’ or ‘zombie’ in the trailers. However, this becomes a mixed bag. When that eventual movie monster rears its head, it has to be good, otherwise the rest of the movie becomes drained of scares. Sadly, [.REC] chooses a very unoriginal baddie to throw into its mix. When the first death jumps out, you realise what the monster is going to turn out to be and suddenly, [.REC] becomes a tad predictable. Again, as far as movies handling this monster go, it does everything well. Excellently, in fact. But it still struggles to keep itself feel like a necessary piece of cinema. The jump scares are fun, but not scary. The reveals are good, but not shocking. We have seen this movie so many times before.
However, I must applaud [.REC] on a fantastic ending. The last ten minutes change-up the game completely and give me the movie I had been wanting to see from the start. While the monster isn’t original, it does take the source of the monster in a partially new direction. It means that the final reveal is a good one and something we haven’t seen done before. The found footage (while still moderately clichéd), is used with precision to give us a pulse-pounding climax. The use of night vision suggests that my favourite horror game, Outlast, was inspired by this truly remarkable piece of horror film-making. It also cleverly hides the ropey CGI and makes it suit the atmosphere, something most of the awful B Movies I subject myself to, could learn from. It still doesn’t quite leave me with the impression that its cult status is deserved, but it definitely grants itself a recommendation.
Final Verdict: [.REC] is a strong horror, albeit not terrifically original. It has enough moments to praise, but leaves an unsatisfied taste in your mouth.