- Rated R
- Buy the Blu-ray
All photos © Sony Pictures
Reviewed by Jason Zingale
here’s a widespread belief that Hollywood is rapidly running out of original ideas, and though the situation isn't as bad as some people might think, it’s movies like “Quarantine” that lead them to make such dramatic statements. Not only is the film a remake of the Spanish horror flick, “[Rec],” but it’s also the third movie this year (after “Cloverfield” and George Romero's “Diary of the Dead”) to implement a “Blair Witch Project”-style approach to storytelling. For as great as the setup may be, however, “Quarantine” never makes the most of its interesting premise due to a series of problems that seem to plague most horror movies these days.
Jennifer Carpenter stars as Angela Vidal, the host of a late night news program who’s been invited along with her cameraman, Scott (Steve Harris), to shoot a puff piece about Los Angeles firefighters. Her two escorts for the night (Jay Hernandez and Johnathon Schaech) take her on a tour of the firehouse, showing her the ins and outs of their day-to-day life, but what Angela’s really interested in is accompanying them on a call. She gets her wish when she joins them on a seemingly routine trip to an apartment building that goes from bad to worse in a matter of minutes. First, the elderly lady the firefighters have been called in to help bites one of the police officers on the neck. Then Angela, Scott and the rest of the tenants discover that they’ve been locked inside until the Centers for Disease Control can figure out what transformed the old lady into a mouth-foaming, neck-chomping lunatic. And in classic horror fashion, all hell breaks loose.
Unfortunately, none of it is very original, or scary, for that matter. Though the idea to make the infected the product of a mutated strain of rabies may seem clever, it’s not very different from the rage virus that was at the center of Danny Boyle’s highly underrated “28 Days Later.” Unlike “Quarantine,” that film actually had something to offer horror enthusiasts – namely the first appearance of fast-moving zombies – as well as a revival of the social commentary that was so prevalent in Romero’s earlier movies. That’s not to say that “Quarantine” won’t please fans of the genre, but it’s so late to the party that it just comes off looking like yet another “Cloverfield” clone.
There’s only so much that a movie filmed entirely from the view of its cameraman can achieve (even “The Blair Witch Project” alternated between two cameras), and once the gimmick has worn off, you’re left watching something that feels more like a chore than anything legitimately suspenseful. It doesn’t help that the characters are just as dumb as usual. Some offer a helping hand to an infected that has just attacked fellow victims, while others lean against glass doors that knowingly contain infected on the other side. I’m not against the idea of having characters killed, but can someone at least put a little thought into the way that it happens?
“Quarantine” isn’t all bad. The addition of a TV cameraman allows the film to adopt a far better video quality than the others just like it, while the make-up work is top-notch. Additionally, the movie features a strong cast of B-actors, including Greg Germann, Rade Sebedzija, and Dania Ramirez of "Heroes." In fact, the group’s only weak link is its star, Jennifer Carpenter, who is so over the top in her role that she may go down as one of the most annoying horror protagonists in cinema. Don’t worry, though. If you’ve seen the trailer, you already know what lies ahead for her character. Call it a spoiler if you like; just don’t blame me for ruining the surprise.
Single-Disc Blu-Ray Review:
Despite the film’s shortcomings, the Blu-ray release offers a solid collection of extras including a short making-of featurette (“Locked In”) and a behind the scenes look at Almost Human’s awesome make-up effects (“Dressing the Infected”). The audio commentary with co-writer/director John Erick Dowdle and co-writer/producer Drew Dowdle isn’t as good as it could be, but then again, neither is the movie.