DVD REVIEW

Quarantine

Quarantine
Angela (Jennifer Carpenter, Dexter), a TV reporter doing a puff piece on the local fire department, suddenly finds herself in the middle of a real story as she and her cameraman get swept up in an emergency call at an old, dark apartment building. It appears that the tenants have been infected with some kind of highly contagious virus which causes them to go insane and eat human flesh. The building is very quickly quarantined by the CDC, leaving them to fight for their lives as the infection spreads. If you've seen a bootleg copy of Jaume Balaguero and Paco Plaza's [Rec] then you've already seen this film, since it is almost a shot for shot remake of that one . If you haven't, you may still feel like you did.

The Movie: star rating

Cannibal Holocaust, The Blair Witch Project, Cloverfield, Redacted, Diary of the Dead, The Poughkeepsie Tapes, [Rec], and now Quarantine -and that's only the major releases. Dig a little deeper and you'll find hundreds of struggling garage filmmakers firing up their camcorders to create their own down and dirty docu-horrors, turning their lack of resources into an advantage through a gimmick which aims to look as amateur as possible. The director of this attempt, John Erick Dowdle , should know since he was one of them; his previous film The Poughkeepsie Taples was clearly the job application for this gig.

The key to pulling off one of these movies is to make it look as authentic as possible. The final film must not appear to have been dramatically constructed, the characterizations must be presented very subtly and the action must be within the realm of believability. There shouldn't be any familiar faces in the cast and the film must look as though it were totally caught on the fly with no lighting set-ups or complex sound recording. One of the mistakes that tips these films off as staged is when characters far away from the camera sound as clear and loud as those right next to it. Pay attention the next time you tape something with your own camcorder and see how well you can hear Uncle Bob on the other side of the room. Blair Witch had its faults but it certainly got the aesthetic right. Quarantine is the Hollywood version of a docu-horror. It looks slicker than it should probably because none of the pros involved wanted to make anything look THAT bad for fear of never working again. But bad is what makes this concept work. [Rec] looked awful and was the better for it.

The film certainly does an effective job at aping the original's controlled build of tension.There are a couple of decent jump-out-of-your-seat moments and some effective gore FX but don't get too excited because this is real no frills filmmaking. Anything that gets in the way of the main idea is stripped to the bone. This includes certain niceties like character, humor, and even story. There is only the thinnest suggestion of a story here. [Rec] attempted to straddle the worlds of science and superstition in much the way that John Carpenter did years ago with Prince of Darkness and came up with an "explanation" at the end that was very mysterious and perplexing but still quite thought-provoking. Dowdle changes this up for an explanation involving a stolen virus that sounds like something leftover from an earlier draft of 28 Days Later. It's both too much and too little much too late in the film for that kind of lame exposition.

Something must be said of the cynical work of producer Roy Lee as well. After drinking the Asian Horror well dry, it appears he's had to seek out other foreign films to remake for the American teen market in order to hold onto his niche in the industry. Since Spanish horror is currently having its own renaissance these days, I think it's fairly certain we're in for a glut of S-horror infiltrating the multiplexes next year.

The Disc: dvd

The film is presented in Anamorphic Widescreen with two tracks, a 5.1 Surround English track and a 2.0 French track. Subtitle options are English, French, Spanish, and additional English subs for the commentary track.

The featurettes include a 10 minute making-of, a brief look at the makeup FX and a very brief look at one of the stunts. These all feature the usual back slapping "good times had by all" interviews that offer nothing at all in the way of actual information, except that it was an honor to work with everyone and the film is totally awesome.

The audio commentary is by director/co-writer John Erick Dowdle and his brother, co-writer/producer Drew Dowdle. That's right, they're the " Dowdle Brothers". Some day someone will have to examine this phenomenon of brother filmmaking teams from both an aesthetic AND psychological perspective. When they do, they can use this commentary as source material and may just have to make a note as to why the brothers felt the need to act like they came up with ideas for this movie that were already in the original film. Maybe they felt weird about doing a commentary for what is nothing more than a Xerox of another, better film.

Reviewed By: Brian Holcomb

Release Details
Length: 89 min
Rated: R
Distributor: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Release Date:  2009-02-17
Starring: Jennifer Carpenter, Steve Harris, Jay Hernandez, Jonathan Schaech
Directed by: John Erick Dowdle
Produced by: Roy Lee, Doug Davison
Written by: John Erick Dowdle and Drew Dowdle, based on the screenplay by Jaume Balaguero & Paco Plaza
Visit the Quarantine Official Website
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