Friday, 4 May 2012

Rare Imports #3: [Rec] (2007)

[Rec] is a 2007 found footage horror film. Directed by Paco Plaza and Jaume Balaguero and starring Manuela Velasco. The film is Spanish language and was shot on location in Barcelona.

[Rec] follows local TV reporter Angela as she films a special news report on the firemen of Barcelona entitled "While You Are Asleep", which follows the crew on their local rounds. After a call is received reporting screams from an apartment block, the firemen and TV crew  rush to the building to discover a rabid old woman who appears to be suffering from some kind of infection. Finding the rest of the residents congregated in the lobby, the building is soon quarantined and the group are left to fight off the frenzied infected. After exploring the building and discovering clues linking the outbreak to the catholic church, the film climaxes as the survivors confront the source of the infection...the Madeiras girl!

Although found footage films are now a monthly event, back in 2007 this was not the case . Although Paranormal Activity had been making waves on the film festival circuit it had not yet established itself as the most profitable film of all time,  bringing  dozens of found-footage films with it. That being said, I feel it's fair to say that [Rec] had an equal hand in resurrecting the format (post Blair Witch) as well as breathing new life into the stale zombie/infected sub-genre. The Spanish location and culture also add an extra dimension to the limp infected sub-genre as do the religious conspiracy elements. The shaky-cam format is always going to turn off a certain portion of the audience who would dismiss the concept as "queasy-cam". However, the format has never worked better than in the claustrophobic setting of the apartment building and this provides the adrenaline-fuelled experience that garnered the film international attention.

The creature effects for the infected are simple but very effective, resembling rabid animals, but the real standout creation in the film is the Madeiras girl. I can't quite explain the terror I felt when I first saw the hideous ghoul shuffle into frame but for me, it's up there as one of the most horrifying climaxes in film history. Of course it helps a great deal that the sequence is shot in the night-vision style which creates a very tense and claustrophobic environment. There's something genuinely disturbing about the appearance and movement of the films sympathetic villain. Couple that with the films iconic parting image and you have an extremely satisfying payoff that has been masterfully built to throughout the piece.

[Rec] spawned a tremendous sequel and a prequel, [Rec] Genesis, is being released this year but it's a testament to the original film that such a (so far) consistent franchise has been produced. Spain hasn't had a particularly rich history of horror films (with the exception of Armando De Ossorio's Blind Dead series) when compared to it's neighbours France or Italy but this film is more than enough to put them back on the horror map. Turn the lights off, turn the sound up and prepare to scared witless, then go watch [Rec] 2.

5 Stars *****

What did you think of Rec? Do you like any other Spanish horror films?


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