When I reviewed the Prom Night remake for DoG, I found myself commenting on how little resemblance it bore to the original. On this occasion, reviewing Quarantine, I find myself dealing with a remake that sticks rigidly close to its source material.
However, in remaking the recent Spanish horror movie Rec, the folks behind Quarantine have managed to find some common ground with the people that brought you Prom Night. Neither has made a particularly good film.
The film starts with television presenter Angela (Jennifer Carpenter) and her cameraman filming a piece with some firemen, following them on for a typical night’s work. Except, wouldn’t you know it, it turns out to be anything but a typical night’s work.
Answering a routine call-out to a nearby apartment block, they soon find themselves trapped, along with a confused cop and the residents of the various apartments. This might seem like a big enough inconvenience as it is, without some kind of zombification virus outbreak. Scared, confused and under threat from forces both inside and out, they struggle to work together and try to escape.
Quite how Quarantine manages to fall so flat is a bit of a mystery. Where you’re sticking so closely to the original material, it seems unlikely that the outcome could be particularly different. Rec is fantastic source material to be working from. But if the Psycho remake taught us nothing else, and it truly didn’t, it’s that following the same recipe but changing the ingredients can produce very different results.
One of the problems is the cast. Films shot in a camcorder style are supposed to offer a heightened sense of reality. This becomes infinitely less effective when your two main cast members are from Dexter (Jennifer Carpenter) and Hostel (Jay Hernandez). Neither does particularly badly within their roles, but none of the cast does anything of interest with their roles.
Similarly the ‘real’ feeling of the film is betrayed by the glossy look. Quarantine looks like a Hollywood movie, which is inappropriate for this style of filmmaking. Horror has a tradition of low-budget movies working best; The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, A Nightmare On Elm Street, The Blair Witch Project.
That Quarantine has failed to replicate Rec’s success in creating a realistic film is a problem that can’t be overcome. That said, Quarantine does have positive elements. It features some pretty decent use of sound design (immensely important in horror films; please note that the three films listed in the previous paragraph also feature fantastic use of sound to create tension). The production design is also decent. They’ve also recreated all of the standout moments of the original, which I’m sure will retain much of their impact for first time viewers.
Quarantine is surely a better watch if you haven’t seen Rec. However, this Hollywood remake never comes close to matching its source material. It’s a lazy effort, aimed entirely at the ‘I don’t watch movies to read!’ crowd. It’s a shame because what they’re getting is an inferior version, regardless of what language it’s in.
Extras There are three featurettes on offer, although they’re little more than fluff. The main extra feature is a commentary track, which is again a very standard affair. It’s filled with “I thought they did a great job of…” moments, which never make for a particularly engaging affair. It’s also hard to take explanations of the choices they’ve made during the production seriously when 90% of the answers aren’t “because that’s what Rec did”. So we’re offered a reasonable amount of content, but it’s of little substance.