Quarantine (UK - BD)
Our Marcus gets locked in an apartment complex with a bunch of infected tenants
Following the action in a Cloverfield-style hand-held camera, Quarantine tells the story of ‘The Nightshift’ TV presenter Angela Vidal (Jennifer Carpenter) and her cameraman, Scott (Steve Harris), as they follow a group of fire-fighters on a seemingly routine call-out to an apartment complex, only to find that it’s actually something so deadly the authorities have to shut the building down—with everyone still inside.
I’m struggling a little to keep my feelings for Quarantine fair as it’s a remake of the recent Spanish movie [REC], which I have a lot of admiration for. It’s quite difficult to see Quarantine as a standalone project, especially as the majority of the movie is a shot for shot conversion. For the record, [REC] was a movie that made me jump. This might sound obvious as it’s a horror movie, but I’m really not a jumper when it comes to horror. I just sort of go with what’s thrown at me and manage to see what’s coming a lot of the time. [REC] got me like three or four times and to add to that it was actually a great movie in a horror arena that’s been done to death (followed by un-death).
Quarantine immediately gets off to a shaky start in comparison to [REC]. I’m not sure if it’s the cultural divide or the simple fact I knew the actors in the US remake, but the opening scenes with Angela and her cameraman as they follow the firemen round the station felt one hundred percent like a movie and I think it would have done whether I’d seen [REC] or not. The charm and total believability of [REC] was totally lost on this remake. Everything shot was lit like a movie, the natural delivered dialogue sounded like it had been rehearsed to try and sound natural and just because Jennifer Carpenter giggles with every line of dialogue doesn’t make it sound or feel like a real conversation.
Once we get to the apartment complex and the events start to unfold, the worth in this remake starts to become apparent and the fact that the decision was made to stick so closely to the original set up and style is a credit to everyone involved in the project. The makers begin to make slight changes to the original to bring their own spin. The infected old lady is handled with the same sense of realism that [REC] set up so well, but the sense that she was struggling with her new urges was a nice touch that I don’t remember picking up in the original events.
This continues as the film carries on, using pretty much all of the moments from [REC] in exactly the same way and the majority of them working just as well. The same character arcs are all there, the slow build in the realisation as to what the tenants think is going on and the huge build in momentum when it all really starts kicking off. It has all of the original's pace, tension and timing, even if it doesn’t have the same realism.
There are a few exceptions though, without getting too spoilery, fans of [REC] will no doubt go on about a massive shock involving a fireman who makes a ‘dramatic entrance’. I literally can’t say anymore without spoiling it but it’s nowhere near as effective here. Same can be said for the end pay off. As the events build and build, leading up to a final ten to fifteen minutes of heart-pounding tension, some of our characters find themselves presented with all the answers to what’s actually happened here. In [REC] it was something far more brave, ballsy and out there, but Quarantine opts for a more ‘current fears’ explanation, which wraps the events up nicely enough, but not as satisfying or original as the [REC] ending.
As I said, it’s hard to see Quarantine as something new, especially as I saw [REC] so recently, but I will say that Quarantine does its remake job far more satisfactorily than many of the others gone by. As with [REC], Quarantine manages to take the ‘zombie’ genre, do very little new with it, but still make it feel fresh and effective. As the numbers turn in the infected characters' favour and the odds of survival start dropping, Quarantine manages to keep the fear of the situation in check and despite the fact the whole thing feels like a movie, whereas [REC] kept that realism illusion pretty much solid until the end, it’s a movie that keeps you scared, and it can’t ask for much more than that.
Shot in HD, there’s very little to fault with Quarantine’s transfer. I don’t remember seeing a speck of grain or any sort of issue with the image.
The only tiny things that could be mentioned are the that colour scheme of the movie isn’t one that relies on colour, so everything’s quite muted, outside of maybe the yellow fire jackets, but even they don’t pop like HD can when it wants to. Blacks can sometimes feel a little blue, but this is probably more to do with the lighting than the transfer. So, overall the picture all looks very clean throughout no matter the lighting and it’s a fine example of a Blu-ray disc.
For the first ten minutes or so Quarantine does very little but sit in the front speakers, but once we get to the apartment complex and the lock-down begins, it’s a very different story. The atmospherics in the rear speakers hardly ever stop. There are police sirens everywhere, helicopters flying overhead, people bustling about outside the sealed doors, and when an exit gets blocked as an escape route there’s just enough bass to tell you that the option is no longer available.
The mix does a fine job at wrapping its audience up in its desired uneasy atmosphere and largely went unnoticed in its subtly as I got more and more into the unfolding tension, but when I stopped to check, it was a massive element of what made this all work so well.
Besides the Blu-ray showreel, trailers for Resident Evil: Degeneration, Lakeview Terrace, Terminator Salvation (teaser trailer); The International and BD-Live, there are some featurettes. The first, 'Locked In: The Making of Quarantine' (10:05) is a short look at the process of making Quarantine. This contains a few interviews mixed with a few on set glimpses and nothing more.
'Dressing the Infected: Robert Halls Make Up Design' (07:29) has a look at the infected look, which in all honesty looked better in photos than it did in the movie and 'Anatomy of a Stunt' (03:23) takes a closer look at the scene where one of the infected residents takes a dive down the middle of the stairwell.
Lastly comes the commentary with writer/director John Erick Dowdle and writer/producer Drew Dowdle. The both have lots to say and their thoughts and feelings are covered throughout. It’s a pleasant, easy to listen to commentary. However, for the longest time there's not one mention of [REC] and all of these decisions they were making and the artistic choices they are taking to make the movie convincing are pretty much sold as their own, which soon gets annoying as the majority of this movie is literally just replicating [REC] beat for beat. I’ll give them credit, they did a fine job at capturing the look and feel of the original, but outside of handful of new elements there were surely no more decisions to be made other than deciding to re-watch [REC] on DVD, where all the original decisions were made.
Quarantine does a great job of capturing what worked so well in [REC]. While it looks pretty great in HD, this holds it back somewhat, from feeling quite as real as the original did. That might come down to my recent viewing of [REC] and referencing it in the back of my mind, knowing that this is a remake. Maybe it's just a personal thing.
Expect to be more wrapped up in this if it's your first trip to the apartment complex with the batty old lady screaming from her room, and if you’ve seen [REC] don’t write off the US remake just yet. It’s well worth a look and debate over what explanation of the events works best for you.
* Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page.
Review by Marcus Doidge
Suitable only for persons of 18 years and over
Release Date: 9th March 2009
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: Dolby TrueHD 5.1 English, Audio Description 5.1 English
Subtitles: English, English HoH, Hindi
Extras: Commentary with Writer/Director John Erick Dowdle and Writer/Producer Drew Dowdle, Locked In: The Making of Quarantine, Dressing the Infected: Robert Hall's Make-Up Design, Anatomy of a Short, Trailers: Blu-ray Disc is High Definition; Resident Evil: Degeneration; Lakeview Terrace; Terminator Salvation (Teaser Trailer); The International, BD-Live
Easter Egg: No
Director: John Erick Dowdle
Cast: Jennifer Carpenter, Steve Harris, Jay Hernandez, Johnathon Schaech
Genre: Horror and Thriller
Length: 89 minutes
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