Sunday, November 1, 2009

Quarantine - some remakes work just fine

If you read my Schlocktoberfest blogaramathon last year, you know I loved the zombie virus movie from Brazil, [Rec]. So I was suspicious of the American remake, which was renamed Quarantine. The horror bloggers liked it, but they like a lot of stuff that us non-horror-geeks don't. Just as you might want to take any movie review of mine with a grain of salt if it has a) midgets b) Geena Davis or c) swords in it, sometimes you have to be a little dubious. (Though trust me, even I thought Cutthroat Island sucked). But I assure you, Quarantine is a horror movie worth your time if you want a good scare.
It has a great premise- we're seeing the tape of a TV crew doing a piece on an L.A. fire department. We begin at the firehouse, with reporter Angela (Jennifer Carpenter, 'Sis' from "Dexter") interviewing firemen, showing viewers how they operate, and getting macked on by the burly macho men. This is our introduction to the victims, and it works very well, being compelling in its own right. We meet Jake (Jay Hernandez) a likeable and diminutive fireman who is professional and friendly, and a horndog pal of his who's the A-personality operator. Then of course, they get a call, and we're caught up in the excitement of being embedded on a fire truck run.
The call brings them, paramedics, and a few L.A.P.D. to an old high rise apartment with a central staircase and lots of balconies, where upstairs an old woman is sick and delusional. We begin to wonder why a fire truck was called. We get so immersed that we think we're waching a particularly good cop show, and then the old lady takes a bite out of an officer's neck and all hell breaks loose. The documentary style is very reserved, so don't worry about shaky-cam nausea. You get a very realistic feel to things without feeling like you're watching a camera fall down the stairs. It helps that the premise lets us have Scott, a professional TV cameraman, as our guide.
Slowly we realize something is very wrong, and it only gets worse as the building is, as the title suggests, quarantined by the National Guard and the CDC, covered in clear tarps, surrounded by armed soldiers who do not hesitate to enforce the barrier as if their lives depend on it. The building is peopled with loners and families, with a few standouts- a talkative fellow who helpfully offers "lots of Vicodin" for the injured cop, a mother with a sick daughter, a whiny bitch with a little yappy dog, an African couple who speaks no English. The building's owner is the ever-dependable Rade Serbedzija, best remembered as "Boris the Bullet Dodger" from Snatch. Soon firemen are being thrown off balconies, panicked cops are ordering everyone downstairs, and we only have Jake, Angela and Scott the cameraman to record the terror.
Between attacks and escape attempts, we get an inkling of what has happened and why they are locked up, as a Veterinarian examines the sick and says it looks a lot like rabies. The film however, like the original, has a video game structure as they work their way up the building to the attic, where a "loner guy" was renting illegally, and the secrets are all revealed. But as far as zombie movies go, this is one of the more realistic and terrifying, because it just feels like how things would happen if you woke up one day and your neighbor had the zombitis. No one is going to risk infection to save your sorry ass, or hesitate to shoot you, even if you pull up your shirt, twirl and say "look, no bites!" It combines the terror of an outbreak with the fear of State power making that most difficult of decisions, to sacrifice the few to save the many.
It's been on cable- and it's worth a view. Give it a shot. Besides, Jennifer Carpenter is quite good, and pretty to look at if a bit on the skinny side. Eat a cheeseburger, hon. She panics just like she does on Dexter, but she's much more vulnerable here and does a good job telegraphing the scares to us.

1 comments:

Mercurie said...

I really enjoyed Quarantine, but then I am a horror geek. I liked the premise and that, even though it is described as a "zombie" movie, it's not quite a "zombie" movie.

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