English Title: [Rec]

Original Title: [Rec]

Country of Origin: Spain

Studio: Filmax

Director: Jaume Balagueró, Paco Plaza

Producer(s): Julio Fernández

Screenplay: Jaume Balagueró, Luis Berdejo, Paco Plaza

Cinematographer: Pablo Rosso

Art Director: Gemma Fauria

Editor: David Gallart

Runtime: 75 minutes

Genre: Fantasy and Horror

Language: Spanish

Starring/Cast: Jorge-Yaman Serrano, Manuela Velasco, David Vert, Ferrán Terraza

Year: 2007

Volume: Spanish / Portuguese

Perky anchorwoman Angela and her unseen cameraman Pablo tags along with a fire crew during a typical night on the job. The excitement starts when the crew is called out to a small apartment building where a woman has been heard screaming. After assisting the police to gain entry to the apartment, they discover an elderly woman apparently in the middle of some kind of seizure or fit. Without warning, the woman suddenly throws herself at one of the policemen and begins biting and tearing his face. When the team finally manages to subdue the woman and evacuate the wounded officer they discover that the building has been completely sealed up from the outside. Speaking from behind layers of plastic sheeting, a faceless official informs them that quarantine precautions are now in place and advises them to remain calm until a medical investigator arrives and assesses the scene. No-one will be allowed to leave until then, not even the injured policeman, who is now in a critical condition and in desperate need of medical attention. Unfortunately, whatever affected the old woman has begun to affect other occupants of the building, and soon the policeman is not the only one fighting for his life.

Ever since the releases of his debut feature, cult favourite The Nameless (1998), Jaume Balagueró has been arguably the leading figure in the world of contemporary Spanish horror. While his subsequent films – Darkness (2002) and Frágiles/Fragile (2005) – have not always matched the quality of his debut, Balagueró has shown himself to be a consistently interesting and unusual director with a flair for eye-catching, disturbing imagery. Balagueró’s fourth theatrical horror film, [Rec] is a substantial departure from his previous two efforts, both stylish ghost stories. In place of atmosphere and supernatural chills we have full-blooded and bloody neo-zombie action, with a level of graphic violence almost entirely absent from the director’s earlier films. [Rec] also sees Balagueró returning to his native language for the first time since 1998, perhaps due to the difficulties surrounding his English-languages features (both Darkness and Fragile suffered lengthy delays, with the latter still unreleased in the US at the time of writing). This change can also be seen in To Let (2006), a visceral psycho-thriller that formed Balagueró’s contribution to the Spanish TV series Películas para no dormir/6 Films to Keep You Awake. This time he shares the credit with Paco Plaza, another alumnus of the Filmax-Fantastic Factory stable, responsible for many of Spain’s best horror films including Brad Anderson’s The Machinist (2004). Plaza made his debut with the lacklustre Ramsey Campbell adaptation Second Name (2002), before winning acclaim for his revisionist werewolf tale Romasanta: The Werewolf Hunt (2004).
Although [Rec] is frequently described as a cross between 28 Days Later (2002) and The Blair Witch Project (1999), such comparisons do not really get to the heart of the movie. Certainly, the handheld camerawork could have come from Blair Witch and the fast-moving, virus-infected creatures are obviously the Hispanic cousins of the rage-infected Londoners. However, like most zombie movies made in the last 40 years, [Rec] is heavily influenced by the films of George A Romero, most obviously by Night of the Living Dead (1968), but also by his less-well-known 1973 film The Crazies. Like [Rec], The Crazies inverts the Night of the Living Dead setup to have the uninfected trapped not by zombie hordes but by faceless government forces, and in uncomfortably close proximity to the creatures. It is interesting to note that Romero’s next zombie movie- 2007’s Diary of the Dead, released just a few weeks after [Rec] – would use the same handheld camera approach.
With most of the action taking place in one confined location, [Rec] manages to generate a surprising level of tension and claustrophobia. Caught between the bloodthirsty creatures inside and the radiation-suited figures outside, who warn them not to approach the windows or attempt to leave, the occupants quickly begin fighting, taking their anger and fear out on each other. The residents turn on the lone surviving policeman resolutely trying to obey his orders, the policeman turns on the camera crew, and everybody turns on the poor Japanese family accused of being somehow responsible for the events taking place. Milking the external threat and internal tensions for all they are worth, Balagueró and Plaza keep things moving at hysteria pitch for most of the film’s lean 75-minute running time. The results are not without flaws – the characters are one-note sketches and there is little here that is actually original – but [Rec] is quite an unpleasant horror film. It was followed in 2008 by the English-language, shot-for-shot remake Quarantine, while Balagueró and Plaza continued their story in the respectable [Rec] 2 (2009).@font-face { font-family: "Arial"; }@font-face { font-family: "Arial"; }@font-face { font-family: "Calibri"; }p.MsoNormal, li.MsoNormal, div.MsoNormal { margin: 0cm 0cm 10pt; line-height: 115%; font-size: 11pt; font-family: Calibri; }.MsoChpDefault { font-size: 10pt; font-family: Calibri; }div.WordSection1 { page: WordSection1; }

Author of this review: Jim Harper