“[Rec]” – Andrew Guarini

If [Rec] seems at first glance like a rehash of the fly on the wall cinematography school we’ve recently seen in Cloverfield and George Romero’s Diary of the Dead recently and is then dismissed, it is truly tragic because people will be missing a masterfully crafted, incredibly claustrophobic horror film that really ratchets up to a truly uncomfortable cinematic experience. The story is pretty simple, which works considering the movie is much better without outright character development or crafting any relationships at all; it’s a movie very much about the panic of the moment and feeling hopelessly trapped amongst the dead and dying. Ángela (Manuela Velasco) is a television reporting filming her show “While You’re Asleep” with her durable cameraman and perseverance to get the full story on the group of fireman she’s accompanying for the night.

The report is set off its normal course however by a call of an elderly woman in an apartment complex who was heard screaming. Upon arrival, our reporter, the firemen and few residents of the building learn there’s something much more sinister going on; as the blood begins to splatter and police and government officials seal off the building for fear of outbreak, a disease of hysteria (or some serious flesh munchies) spreads past the walls. What really makes [Rec] work is its sense of urgency, a packed 80 minutes of boo scares, death, paranoia and visual disorientation. The screenplay by Jaume Balagueró, who co-directed the film with Paco Plaza, isn’t the deepest, but apart from mild patches of the fevered pacing lagging, it works perfectly as we see Ángela maintain her wanting to capture the story under much different, more dire circumstances and see normal people who simply have no clue how to make it through the insane crisis and confusion.

The aforementioned shaky-cam is quite the shakester, but not to the point of nausea, and it constantly keeps us informed of the characters tight surroundings and provides quick spurts of jolting plot development. The point of view technique via our Madrid cameraman (whom we never do actually see) is as gripping to us as it is helpless, as we watch these desperate people look for a way out only to be greeted by more savage chaos or the perplexing outside continuing to seal them in. Some might grow impatient, or just irritated by the fact that the more action oriented sequences are constructed of a lot of screaming, running and dim lighting and inherent lack of steadiness causing the scares to be at times more implied than they are actually seen. In this case it really depends from person to person; do you prefer to have the scare there before you or do you prefer the use of off screen space, using the sound, such as the echo of the scream to really get under your skin?

Either way, [Rec] is a slim volume of great power, a film already remade as Quarantine for American release in October. While being a film that makes great use of its environment and minimalist cinematographic aspects for almost unbearably suspenseful purposes, it also a film that ends sublimely, following closely the style, tone, and construction that had preceded it.

Rating: ★★★☆

-Andrew Guarini

Read A.J. Hakari’s [Rec] review here.

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