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Review

‘Quarantine’ reflects Hollywood’s laziness, lack of creativity

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October 16, 2008

Just when you thought American versions of foreign horror films were winding down to a close, along comes “Quarantine” to give this dead horse one last beating. I’ve yet to see the much-lauded Spanish flick “[Rec]” that it’s based upon, but from what I hear, its American counterpart does next to nothing in the way of differentiating itself from the original. If this is true, then “Quarantine” finds itself the latest victim of Hollywood’s lazy attitude toward these remakes, more concerned with aping its source material as much as possible than making its own mark on the horror genre.

Employing a first-person point of view, “Quarantine” follows TV reporter Angela Vidal (Jennifer Carpenter) on what starts out as a night just like any other. With her cameraman Scott (Steve Harris) in tow, Angela shadows two firefighters (Jay Hernandez and Johnathon Schaech) as they go about their usual business. Just when things are starting to get pretty mellow and boring, an emergency call summons L.A.’s finest to an old apartment complex, where things proceed to get really freaky, really fast. It quickly becomes apparent that some sort of virus is weaving its way through the building, spreading by bites and turning those infected into enraged monsters. Worse yet, the authorities outside have locked them in, leaving Angela, Steve, and those left standing to fend for themselves against the growing numbers of the infected.

“Quarantine” leaves viewers with very little reason to buy a ticket, other than an OK premise and a scant few moments where some truly crazy stuff goes down. It’s pretty standard horror material — a blood-soaked funhouse in which shrieking harpies leap out every once in a while to deliver some predictable, “Gotcha!”-style scares to the audiences. The one thing the film has going for it is the first-person perspective (shot entirely through Scott”s camera), which disorients viewers more than it adds to the flick’s fright factor.

Such an approach was effective in “Cloverfield” and even carried thematic weight in “Diary of the Dead.” In “Quarantine,” though, it often confuses viewers in its attempt to acquaint them with the story’s very frantic atmosphere. Characters randomly pop up infected at the convenience of the story, and sometimes, the camera whips around so much, it’s hard to tell who’s munching on who. Still, it should be said that the film does yield some positive results in the scare department. The filmmakers have set just the right balance between suspense and gore, incorporating enough of the former so that instances of the latter become all the more effective. I also can’t deny the few moments the cinematography, which makes “The Blair Witch Project” look like a Swedish melodrama, does wrap up the viewer in sheer, unadulterated frenzy.

There’s no denying that “Quarantine” will have an effect on many audiences, probably those who prefer a more in-your-face approach to horror. For most, though, “Quarantine” is more liable to stir up a nasty headache over any feelings of fear or dread.

A.J. Hakari is a student at UW-River Falls.