Some films are remade
so that a creative director may give an original spin on an iconic movie. Some films are remade and re-imagined so they may be re-appraised by a new, younger audience. Some films, however, are remade so that fussy American popcorn-grazers needn't worry about doing anything as complicated as reading subtitles. Guess which category Quarantine falls into.
An American remake of Spanish horror [Rec] - a shaky-cam horror made in 2007 but released in the UK in March this year - Quarantine is almost entirely creatively redundant. I guess that makes this review equally useless - what applies in this [Rec] review
largely applies here. It's not quite the shot-for-shot, 'Gus Van Sant ruins Psycho' level of mimicry, but it's close - this is filmmaking by numbers, the creative equivalent of using tracing paper. The plot is the same, the main character's name is the same, the scares are all in the same place... Even the central building has exactly the same layout, despite the fact it's located in LA rather than Barcelona.
It kind of goes without saying, but if you've seen [Rec], Quarantine loses much of its edge. If you're coming in fresh, however, then you'll find much to like. Quarantine introduces us to Angela (Dexter star Jennifer Carpenter), a feisty TV presenter working on a programme called 'Night Shift' with her cameraman Scott (Steve Harris), out covering an LA fire crew on an eventful night. They rock up to an apartment building where an infected old dear has apparently gone ga-ga. Before long, she's chomping on neck flesh like an escapee from a Romero movie. Suddenly, the doors are locked and army types are pointing guns through the window and shouting unconvincing reassurances through megaphones. Gulp.
Carpenter plays scared well, though it's a role that's more reaction than action: run here, be scared, run there, shit self etc. Her shaky hands and breathless line delivery suggests the film crew took great delight in plunging her into complete darkness and screwing with her. Elsewhere, charisma is scant; this being an American remake, any supporting characters are instantly rendered obnoxious jerks that deserve a swift and bloody death. Even the firemen are total dicks. Is it too much to ask that horror movie protagonists don't invite such horrendous punishments on themselves?
On the surface, this is just another horror film of the week: a perfectly enjoyable, instantly forgettable shlock-fest. But looking at the bigger picture, Quarantine is symptomatic of a broken industry; one that would rather remake a perfectly good foreign language film with nice, safe, recognisable American faces rather than plough any money into original concepts. It's as good a film as [Rec], possibly a little more polished and with a few extra lashings of gore, but it loses points for not even trying to do anything new. Add a star if you've not seen the original; steer well clear if you have.