Quarantine is Saved By The Bell and Shaft and shoulder pads in women’s clothing. It’s Ross Perot briefly leading the 1992 Presidential Election and John Lennon’s bed-in for peace. It’s Hoovervilles, Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?, and Andy Warhol’s soup cans. Just as Bret Michaels screaming “Nothin’ But A Good Time” in black spandex pants obnoxiously illustrates exactly where popular music was in the 1980s, Quarantine oozes the macabre, ghoulish stench of 2008, this the foul year of our Lord. The camerawork is shaky. The glitz is non-existent. And the final product is remarkably average. This is what the horror genre has become. Your father’s scream queen in fuck-me-pumps has skipped town. Black guys no longer have the market cornered on early, unnecessary deaths. Bad puns are the new leprosy. The rules have changed, folks. There’s zombies to the left of you, viruses to the right, and here you are--stuck in the middle with Jennifer Carpenter and an axe of mediocrity.
Angela Vidal (Jennifer Carpenter) is a reporter for a television show which follows workers around during a night shift. She’s assigned to cover two local firefighters and quickly immerses herself in their world, sliding down the pole and clowning around with the horny and likable public servants. The guys get a late night call about a woman screaming and head over to apartment complex, taking Angela and her cameraman Scott (Steve Harris) along. Morale heads South in a hurry when the crazy old lady goes Jeffrey Dahmer on a police officer, ripping into him like a McRib sandwich endorsed by the AARP. In response, the government quarantines the building, trapping the tenants, Angela, and the officers inside.
One of the renters, a Veterinarian (Greg Germann), diagnoses both the cannibalistic old shrew and the infected officer as suffering from a rapid onset of rabies on account of them foaming at the mouth and behaving like Old Yeller (before he was shot). The frightened group left inside, a diverse gang of lawyers and immigrants heaved together by gentrification, decides to try and further quarantine the already quarantined building in an attempt to isolate those damn flesh eaters.
Yes, the premise is wildly absurd. Even the word rabies itself comes off like a punch line to most people not named Michael Scott, but that doesn’t mean Quarantine doesn’t make the prospect of getting infected terrifying. The entire film is shot from one camera and basically works in real time. This heightens the tension and jump-ability factor but also ruins any real sense of characterization or serious emotional investment. Quarantine actually has more in common with The Real World than Jaws. It throws a slew of unknown characters without a backstory into a traumatic situation and lets the viewer watch how they’ll behave. There’s not even music or a score to increase anticipation. The soundtrack is entirely screaming--and gurgling noises because of the whole rabies thing.
Vincent Price is dead. George A. Romero’s script for Resident Evil was rejected. But Quarantine---Quarantine is now--October 10th, 2008. It’s the quotient of exactly where we’re at as horror film connoisseurs. Jason decapitated Freddy and now we’re left with Jagsaw, that creepy girl from The Ring, and, yes, Dexter’s foster sister to lead us out screaming.