Tuesday, February 10, 2009

[REC] (Jaume Balaguero & Paco Plaza, 2007, Spain) Fear spreads like a deadly virus, as a reporter and her cameraman become possessed by an ungodly terror: while the world sleeps, the government quarantine leaves them little hope of survival. Ángela and Pablo are filming their assignment at a Barcelona fire station, going about the boring routine of interviews and introductions, hoping that something exciting will happen. It does. They race through the darkened streets, passengers with a group of veteran firemen who must rescue a person trapped in an apartment. The tension builds as what seems to be a simple emergency call soon degenerates into an orgy of violence and bloodshed, and the apartment becomes a steel cage, unattainable freedom seen through the ethereal curtain of plastic while commanding threats are shouted by military police. The film’s cinéma vérité style brings a frustrating realism to the events utilizing overlapping dialogue improvised chaos: the characters behave like people trapped, not actors spouting rigid dialogue. An obese bloody woman ravages the first victim as Hell breaks loose upon the world, and we see the new reality where nothing is believable unless it is seen through a camera’s digital iris, where the optic nerve connects to the hard drive. The narrative accelerates creating intense friction between characters and events but then slows down, letting us catch our breath before the tumultuous shadows cloud our perceptions once again. The cloying darkness becomes a living thing, embracing the victims in the primal fright as the human mind becomes reactionary, uncivilized, the repressed survival instinct taking control and instructing them to run, run…but where? Ángela and Pablo are the last survivors and reach the forgotten penthouse where they discover a mystery that reaches into the Vatican and the chasm of Catholic ideology itself. In the tremors of night vision, a demented creature stalks the gloom and their fate is sealed, the camera ever watchful as they disappear into that evil night. (B+)

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