Jaume Balagueró‘s [REC] is a fine example of mindless, fun terror set in a claustrophobic environment. It’s got it all: infected people who turn into ravenous monsters at the drop of a scene change, terrified, all but idiotic people contained in a tight environment dealing with a situation only a horror writer could think of. Not to mention Big Government Conspiracy, addled, overstressed cops and a reporter and cameraman relentless in their mission to capture it all on tape.
Oddly enough, Quarantine is an example of exactly the same.
One has to wonder at times what Hollywood is thinking. Much like Pan’s Labyrinth, [REC] (though not even close in terms of film, writing and directing quality) could have been released in America. The subtitled film does just fine hitting all its marks, despite the fact it might not be in English for American audiences. Given the fact that Quarantine is nearly the same film shot for shot, the remaking of Balagueró’s fine film is all but moot. There really is no point, other than to rake in more cash on someone else’s idea.
One of the things we found interesting about Balagueró’s [REC] in comparison to Dowdle’s Quarantine is the acting. In a previous review, we’d chastised Jennifer Carpenter’s penchant for overacting during the film’s more tense moments. However, after seeing [REC], we are somewhat forced to recount that statement. Manuela Velasco‘s Angela Vidal is just as frenzied, just as sensational and just as overdone at times as Carpenter’s. Just as with Dowdle’s film, we found ourselves at time questioning the need for such bombastic delivery. Certainly there is plenty of terror. One can only imagine the fear of not knowing just who next is about to attempt to dine on one’s jugular. Or if that little girl is about to become a raging little beast capable of flinging grown men to the side. Still, how much is too much? We found both incarnations of Angela Vidal to be tiresome at various points in the film.
In an interview with Horror.com, Drew Dowdle (producer and brother of director John Erick Dowdle) had this to say about the differences he sees in the two films. When asked how they ‘beefed up’ the original script, Dowdle says,
No, we wanted to add more scenes. We thought the original was very good but once you get in the building and this stuff happens, it didn’t really elevate as much as we thought it could, so we added more scenes and adding more threats. We also wanted to keep it more grounded in reality. The original was a little bit more supernatural.
While we noted ‘more threats’ and a more ‘grounded in reality’ element to Quarantine, the differences, to us, were subtle enough as to be missed if viewing Quarantine first. There were also more obvious elements added, perhaps to be more explanatory to American viewers used to horror nonsense like Saw and Mirrors. God knows we dumb horror down enough in the States, so adding these elements probably had the intended effect. Did we prefer [REC]‘s sparse explanation? Not really. The Dowdle bros. did a satisfactory job of adding the explanatory elements without destroying much of the movie’s credibility.
So why make this remake? Dowdle answers that as well.
We saw a two minute promo and we had the Spanish script. Just the two minute promo alone, we said just this was absolutely what we want to do next. We looked at some other projects but this one just jumped right out. We really wanted to do this one.
Good enough, one supposes. Still, there must be something out there besides pre-existing material, no? We know we hammer Hollywood fairly regularly about her silly, redundant nature. But there is talent to be had. So why are these directors and producers going after what’s already there (moreover, what’s already there and has already been done quite nicely)?
We have to think it comes right down to greed and laziness. It’s a fast way to make a buck (especially given the lack of CGI and sparse camera needs) and it’s a way to do so without spec’ing out tons of scripts and having to pay for writes and rewrites. Certainly, both films are entertaining. But we’re getting bored with Hollywood’s aforementioned greed and laziness.
Come on, Tinseltown, man up and get to work on something at least remotely original.