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Review: Quarantine (2008)

Quarantine (2008) 

Directed by: John Erick Dowdle

Premise: A remake of the Spanish film [Rec]. A television reporter (Jennifer Carpenter) and her cameraman shadow first responders for an evening when they are called to an apartment complex where a mysterious disease resembling rabies has infected the tenants. Federal authorities soon show up and lock everyone, including the news crew, the tenants and the rescue workers, inside the building.

What Works: Quarantine is a very effective horror film. It manages to pull off the jump scares but unlike a lot of recent horror pictures such as the remake of The Hills Have Eyes or Rob Zombie’s version of Halloween, Quarantine is able to create an atmosphere of dread and be creepy between the scares. The picture is done in the style of films like The Blair Witch Project and Cloverfield, with handheld cinematography shot by one of the characters and rough editing that appears as breaks in the footage. The movie is a little slow to get started but once it does, Quarantine proves to be a better film than Blair Witch or Cloverfield. Its characters are better developed and the scenario is made more frightening because the film gives it a sense of authenticity beyond recent entries in this subgenre of film. The tenants act more like real people in this situation and the film and the procedures of the authorities inside and outside have a startling reality about them. The film is almost a rebuke of the post-9/11 hero worship of firefighters and policemen as it deconstructs their heroism and the Center for Disease Control become as villainous as the disease itself. The movie is most skilfull in providing its explanation of what caused these events. The film shows instead of tells except where it is absolutely necessary and gives just enough of an explanation to hint at what has actually happened. Acting in the horror genre is not generally appreciated either by critics or by film organizations, which is too bad because Quarantine has some really terrific performances, namely by Jennifer Carpenter as the television reporter. The trauma and state of fear she is able to convey sells the film.

What Doesn’t: Although it is a better film than Blair Witch or Cloverfield, viewers familiar with those films will probably find Quarantine rather predictable. The first person horror film is a much older genre than might be expected and it really traces back to Peeping Tom and Cannibal Holocaust, films that were viscerally and psychologically disturbing but were also complex pieces of moviemaking that demanded a lot from their audience. Quarantine is far more conventional and misses some opportunities to be more than just a fun house of a film.

Bottom Line: Quarantine is a terrific jump-out-of-your-seat horror movie. It does not penetrate too deeply into the social and psychological of horror of Night of the Living Dead, Cannibal Holocaust, or Halloween but it does make for scary couple of hours.

Episode: #209 (October 19, 2008)