dir John Erick Dowdle
scr John Erick Dowdle, Drew Dowdle
with Jennifer Carpenter, Jay Hernandez, Johnathon Schaech, Steve Harris, Columbus Short, Andrew Fiscella, Rade Serbedzija, Greg Germann, Bernard White, Dania Ramirez, Elaine Kagan, Marin Hinkle
release US 10.Oct.08, UK 14.Nov.08
08/US Screen Gems 1h29
Do you really slide down that pole? Carpenter and Hernandez

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The original:
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Quarantine As this is a virtual shot-by-shot remake, anyone who has seen the superb 2007 Spanish thriller Rec will feel like they're seeing a movie they've watched before, although the cast features some familiar faces this time. And it's not quite as gut-wrenchingly terrifying as it will be for newcomers.

TV reporter Angela (Carpenter) is shooting a day in the life of a Los Angeles firehouse, bored to tears and flirting shamelessly with the hunky firefighters (including Hernandez and Schaech). Finally, things perk up when they're sent on a call, sirens blaring, to an apartment building where an old woman is behaving very strangely and starts attacking people. As the residents gather in the lobby, they realise the building has been sealed from the outside because there's some kind of virus on the loose. And people who are infected won't die properly.

The moment things start turning violent, the film ramps up the zombie gore factor exponentially, while also cranking up the tension. Since everything is shot through the TV camera, the point of view is limited. But this cameraman (Harris) is clearly very tenacious, and catches all kinds of outrageous stuff, from the odd behaviour of the people trapped in this building with him to Angela's sparky go-get-em attitude. And when the action kicks in, the imagery becomes bewildering and extremely horrifying.

By shooting in this style, the performances feel rough and improvised, which makes the characters seem extremely authentic. The only exception, frustratingly, is Carpenter, who's great but sometimes seems like she's straining to look relaxed. But Hernandez is superb as the frazzled fireman, and Short creates a wonderful hothead cop, while other actors find telling moments of character detail even in the most out-of-control situations.

For those familiar with Rec, this film does has a few surprises, with some new or altered sequences. And even as it heads in the same direction, it's just different enough that we're caught up in the suspense and terror. So there's still that same sense of full-on panic, sudden carnage and relentlessly increasing mayhem. The final sequence is rather too hysterical to be coherent, but it's still jittery and thoroughly unnerving.

cert 18 themes, very strong violence, language 18.Sep.08

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© 2008 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall