As in [Record]. Another film that mines the increasingly common gimmick (in horror) of the first-person shaky-cam narrative. Man Bites Dog, The Blair Witch Project, Cloverfield, Diary of the Dead, etc, have all used this conceit - that what we are watching is actually happening, or the faux-documentary. And now (or, at least, 2 years ago) along comes this little Spanish horror flick doing the same dance. Thing is, this one's good. Really good. This is what Romero's Diary of the Dead coulda and shoulda been.
We start with Angela, a news reporter, doing a kinda fluff-piece on the lives and habits of firemen. After a bit of familiarising us with both herself and a couple firemen, an alarm comes in, beckoning the firemen to an unknown crisis at a Barcelona apartment building, Angela and cameraman in tow. What begins as a fairly routine call turns into a very confusing and frightening descent into harnessed chaos. While ostensibly a zombie film, [Rec] is more about the interrelationships of people kept against their will in close quarters, and how bonds are formed and emotions are frayed when people are forced to act without a safety net.
The filmmakers cleverly play with the viewers' senses and sound and lighting are used to expert effect, showing just enough, but not too much. The film takes a bizarre turn in the final 10 minutes, but if you can go along for the ride after what seemed to me like a bit of a stretch plot-wise - and one that admittedly comes out of left-field - then the final scenes are incredibly frightening.
Yes, some think it's silly or peurile to revel in films categorised as "horror", especially with the world's economies crumbling before our eyes and truly terrifying environmental threats that dwarf any cinematic ones, but I think what the genre can offer at its best is a mirror of the pressing issues of today, without having to conform to any kind of constraints of traditional dramatic cinema. [Rec] is kind of a frenzied hybrid of Night of the Living Dead and Cloverfield, and if you dug either of those, you'll probably find something very intriguing and surprising in [Rec], which touches on strained relationships, bio-horror (think The Host), and religious obsession all in an economical 76 minutes (even though the box claims the running time is 89 minutes. Extra long credits?).
Be forewarned - the R1 Seville DVD has a default English-language audio track (a la Let the Right One In). Be sure to change the settings to the original Spanish with English subtitles for maximum enjoyment. Also, avoid the American remake Quarantine, which stumbles badly out of the gates by foresaking subtlety of character for blunt-object head trauma.