Everyone has their staples for Halloween watching, like John Carpenter’s “Halloween” and “Nightmare Before Christmas.” But be forewarned, gentle reader, because your master of Scarimonies (God, I sound like the Crypt Keeper), Dukey Flyswatter, will suggest some gems and themes that may have flown drastically under your radar, like a schizophrenic Vampire Bat. Week four, we focus on movies that defy categorization, but are just plain creepy.
Director: Paco Plaza and Jaume Balagero. Stars: Manuela Velasco, Ferran Terazza, Jorge-Yaman Serreno.
“[Rec.]” is short for the record icon that you see through the lens of a video camera. Seeing it onscreen clues you in to the style of live streaming, found footage and security cam-type horror mockumentary that has permeated the movie culture ever since “The Blair Witch Project” and the “Paranormal Activity” series grew into a cult phenomenon. Personally, it’s gotten to the point where anyone can shake the camera and focus on screaming cast members while barely showing us anything at all, and I can’t wait for the fad to die out. “[Rec.]” is an exception and can be savored time and time again.
A Spanish late night program devoted to city life around the witching hour is interviewing the fire department and rescue team in a rather jovial and realistic manner, so we get to know some of our main characters. It takes about 15 minutes or so to get to the place of no turning back once they have left the safe haven to do a ride-along to investigate a call about an old woman having a fit. The ” fit” turns out to be a Zombie Infection and the elderly shut-in is surely hard to put down without a couple of firemen getting large chunks bitten out of them.
This could easily be a carbon copy of infection films like “28 Days Later” or “The Crazies,” but as each person gets infected, the disease progresses and mutates, causing the National Guard to seal the entire building and shoot anyone trying to get out (or even standing by the window). The lady hero heading the news team wants to document the whole thing, and her crew is allowed to by a paranoid cop as long as they stay out of the way. Between the growing population of diseased zombies and professional exterminators for the state, what’s left of the core group has to maneuver through unsafe structures and blind alleys seeking a way out, as well as the origin of the plague. The finale is a nice and grotesque surprise.
[Rec.] kicks ass all over the American remake cousin (Quarantine) in about every way there is, save for quick pacing and flashy editing, which is not needed for a film of its type. The actors in [Rec.] are right on their marks as well, and although the subtitles can go by pretty fast, I found it preferable to watching the white bread reboot with the actors emoting as if they were auditioning for General Hospital. Horror purists can rejoice in the bloody glory of gory and convincing practical FX that elevate this classy monster flick. And those of you who feel like barfing from the shaky camera technique of Blair Witch and Cloverfield can relax for the most part, since the camera image we see is taken by a veteran news photographer. But beware. There are some very dark sequences, and a couple of cheap jumps scares sprinkled in with some very clever ones. Creepy is plastered all over this horror show.
[Rec.] can be rented or bought in digital form from Amazon.com, or DVD’s can be purchased there as well. Sorry, no Blu-Rays yet (out of print maybe), but the worthwhile sequels are on Blu-Ray and should be given a go at some point when you are Jonesing for a good monster flick, or a nice helping of fast moving zombies.