If you appreciate a scary movie that doesn’t telegraph all its jump-inducing moments with constant squawking violins, over-acting or tired camera-work, Quarantine 2: Terminal will hold your attention. At an hour and a half long, it won’t anaesthetise your backside either.
Long-time writer/first-time director John Pogue, whose most well-known work is 1998’s The Fugitive sequel, U.S. Marshals, delivers a polished, modern horror. It’s refreshingly absent of teen appeal – although there is a Justin Bieber lookalike – and sports a very capable cast of unknowns. Little innovation in plot is the only thing keeping this one on the ground.
Stewardess Jenny (Mercedes Masöhn) begins a routine continental flight out of LA with twelve-year-old George (Mattie Liptak) and a motley cargo of bigger babies to sit. Meanwhile, rugged kindergarten teacher Henry (Josh Cooke) is trying everything to charm Jenny except asking her out onto the wing for coffee.
The crew and passengers seem innocuous enough, and Quarantine 2 might as well be a romantic comedy, at least at first. Suddenly, one passenger blows chunks and does a barrel roll down the cabin aisle, heading straight for the cockpit. The night doesn’t look up for Jenny and friends from then on, as they’re forced to land at an abandoned airport terminal and cope with increasing cases of air-rage.
If you’re familiar with horror, the zombie phenomenon or Hollywood remakes of international cinema, then you may remember the first Quarantine. A reporter and her cameraman shadowed a downtown Los Angeles fire-fighting team on call-out to a run-down tenement that quickly became infested with hyper-rabid mutants.
Based on the Spanish movie [Rec], Quarantine was part of a trend for mining the Spanish horror vein after most of its Japanese cousins, such as Ringu and Ju-on: The Grudge, had been given periled-blonde-lady, Hitchcockian overhauls for an Anglophone audience.
What saved Quarantine from genre stereotypes was its fortunate use of another borrowed concept: found footage. [Rec] was one of a number of movies in the noughties that played with first-person viewpoints and presenting film as if it were a tape of real events.
Perhaps the pioneering use of found footage in modern horror was everybody’s favourite torch-lit snot-fest, 1999’s Blair Witch Project. 2007 was the peak year so far for the sub-genre, however, as both [Rec] and zombie-mogul George Romero’s excellent Diary Of The Dead made effective use of the concept. Quarantine snuck up from behind in 2008 to copy its European forebear.
In theory, Quarantine 2 should be a dull retread of a plot that got bored and decided to soar off on holiday. The scareline sub-genre surely peaked at maximum altitude years ago with Snakes On A Plane and Flight Of The Living Dead; there are only so many places to explore on a passenger jet. What makes proceedings stand out, though, is the creators’ realisation that omitting a score ramps up the scares.
Here’s an example of just how much the ambience of Quarantine 2 works: I watched it on a bright, sunny Sunday afternoon. Not the best time to watch horror, yet it still managed to unnerve. The false drama of the musical background that is so irritatingly intrusive in most horror is entirely absent, from Quarantine 2’s theme-less beginning through to the eerie emergency sirens that erupt sporadically over its closing credits.
Losing the predictability of aural cues democratises each scene, and leaves you flailing in the quiet of the airport terminal alongside the afflicted jet’s passengers, blind to the familiar leitmotif language that usually sleepwalks audiences through cinema’s darker corners.
Pogue’s, and the cast’s, take on the tired subject matter is naturalistic and gripping. These characters are normal people caught in an awful situation beyond their control, something that should be the foundation of any film trying to disturb its viewers. This is common sense that’s sadly been lost to mainstream horror this year with uninspired, atmospheric voids such as Scream 4.
Quarantine 2: Terminal has some genuine frights, with its own twist on the genre, but the presentation can’t hide that there’s nothing innovative on offer about the plot. In spite of the hackneyed story, if you want to see a well-conceived horror movie, and still believe that a film can be disturbing without an insane maestro torturing an orchestra, then check in at the gate.
You can rent or buy Quarantine 2: Terminal at Blockbuster.co.uk.