Quarantine (2008)
By: Craig Villinger on April 13, 2010  | 
Sony | Region 4, PAL | 1.85:1 (16:9 enhanced) | English DD 5.1 | 85 minutes (Full Specs)
The Movie
Cover Art
Director: John Erick Dowdle
Starring: Jennifer Carpenter, Steve Harris, Jay Hernandez, Johnathon Schaech
Screenplay: John Erick Dowdle, Drew Dowdle
Country: USA
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The Hollywood remake craze takes another crazy twist with studios now green lighting remakes before they've even seen the original! Jaume Balaguero and Paco Plaza's creepy Spanish language flick [Rec] played the festival circuit in 2007, but it hadn't even been given any sort of wide release before trailers for the Hollywood redux hit the interwebs. Will we see the day when Hollywood blurs the line between remake and original by getting their English language rehash out first? Given the speed with which Quarantine was produced that scenario is perhaps not as unlikely as you might think.

Quarantine's premise – in fact, pretty much the entire movie – isn't far removed from the original: Television reporter Angela Vidal (Jennifer Carpenter) and her cameraman are documenting a night in the life of two fire fighters on what appears to be a fairly routine evening, but this TV fluff piece is about to gain a little substance! Answering a distress call from a nearby apartment complex, the firemen, along with two police officers also sent to the scene, discover a frothing-at-the-mouth granny who takes a whopping big chunk out of one of the cops, and subsequent attempts to flee the building are thwarted by a group of armed bio-suited individuals who seal off the exits. With the residents, police, fire fighters and TV crew now trapped inside the complex we watch events unfold through the camera lens as fear and panic sets in, and more members of the group are transformed into flesh chomping maniacs.

When remakes are discussed – and boy are they discussed a lot – I usually see little logic in comparing the remake to the original. After all, the likes of Dawn of the Dead 1978 and Dawn of the Dead 2004 are two completely different movies made decades apart for different generations of film goers, and save for the fact they both happen to be called Dawn of the Dead they don't have a whole lot in common, so why anyone would hold the remake up to the original when assessing its individual worth is perplexing. In the case of Quarantine however, since it and its progenitor are virtual carbon copies and both could be found occupying space on the new release shelf at the same time, comparisons are unavoidable, and when put head-to-head with its Spanish forebear the English language remake comes off second best in almost every department.

From Angela Vidal's introduction outside a fire station to the climax inside a grimy apartment Quarantine never strays far from the path beaten out by Rec, but while it copies the plot structure beat-for-beat it fails to replicate Rec's atmosphere, spontaneity, and hair raising tension.

Like Rec, Quarantine utilizes the POV perspective made famous by The Blair Witch Project and used more recently in everything from Cloverfield to Diary of the Dead to The Zombie Diares to Paranormal Activity, but don't expect any Cannibal Holocaust-esque realism here. Director John Erick Dowdle (whose rarely seen debut feature The Poughkeepsie Tapes was also shot POV style and landed him this gig) doesn't rub the "found footage" device in our faces with too much shaky cam and cheap gimmicks like video fuzz, but at times this works against the film. Rec genuinely did feel like a tense live news report, but the remake is far too slick, lacking the chaotic feel of the original. Gone is Rec's gritty low budget realism, replaced by Hollywood realism that is just a little too staged and rehearsed to make us think the on-screen events are the real deal, and the presence of so many recognisable name actors also taints the illusion. In true Hollywood tradition the only significant deviation from the original formula is a dumbed down explanation of Rec's more thought provoking elements and a need to over-explain its vagaries, capped off by the addition of an "expert" resident who conveniently tells us what we are dealing with in the second act to save us ditzy viewers from having to think for ourselves.

While is fails to create any sense of genuine tension Quarantine does at least deliver a degree of mindless carnage. The splatter department is one where the remake manages to give the original a run for its money, with the all seeing camera lens cheerfully lingering on everything from spurting neck wounds to nasty compound leg fractures, and the effects work from Almost Human can't be faulted. The stunt team manages to pull-off several one-take set-pieces that inject Quarantine with its few moments of believability, and the infected faux zombies were also quite menacing, even though they looked like they had been ripped straight from the set of 28 Days Later.

The casting of Dexter's Jennifer Carpenter is another area where Quarantine can claim a minor victory. Although Carpenter loses out to Rec's Manuela Velasco in the cuteness stakes her Angela Vidal is a much more likeable character. Velasco's Vidal was bitchy, coming across as the sort of pushy, invasive journalist you'd see on a tacky current affairs program, but Carpenter's Vidal is one of the boys; an easy going character who the audience is more likely to sympathize with as the situation become grimmer. Admittedly her lack of grace under pressure did become annoying by the final act, with too much babbling and freaking out when the movie should've been more concerned with rolling the end credits, but the same can be said for Velasco's performance to a degree. It's perhaps an indication of just how closely the remake apes the original when it reproduces its flaws.

Positives are fleeting however. Even if I hadn't seen the superior original just a few weeks beforehand Quarantine probably would not have been an engrossing movie. It relies heavily on drawing the viewer in by creating a sense of realism but rarely succeeds, feeling more like rehersals for a stage production than a "real" survival horror experience, and after a slow build-up the fast paced 28 Days Later style final act is severely hampered by the POV perspective. Perhaps if they had ditched the POV gimmick altogether Quaratine could've been a much better movie – at the very least the change of perspective would've made it feel like something more than just a blatant retread. What it ends up being is a remake in the vein of The Omen or The Hitcher: if you've seen the original the remake has nothing new to to offer, and if you haven't seen the original you probably should instead of wasting your time on the lesser copy.
Considering it's a documentary style movie the 16:9 enhanced 1.85:1 presentation looks a lot better than you might expect. There are no issues with sharpness or colour, and any imperfections are deliberate.
Quarantine's sound design abandons the realistic documentary feel, assaulting our ears with a surprisingly aggressive 5.1 channel sound mix. The rear channels are constantly used for noises outside the apartment complex like buzzing helicopters and sirens, which does add to the scale of a movie.
Extra Features
A moderate selection of extras kicks-off with an audio commentary from writer/director John Erick Dowdle and writer/producer Drew Dowdle. The pair deliver an engaging fact filled talk-through and really do seem to be enjoying what they are seeing on screen.

Locked In: The Making of Quarantine is a ten minute featurette that focuses primarily on the complexities of shooting extended takes with up to a dozen actors who could blow their lines at any moment while trying to create a look of organized chaos on a cramped and crowded film set. Interview snippets with director John Erick Dowdle and most of the primary cast and crew are mixed with behind-the-scenes footaga and clips from the movie.

Dressing the Infected: Robert Hall's Make-up Design takes us behind-the-scenes again, this time to look at the effects work of rising star Robert Hall.

Anatomy of a Stunt briefly shows the preparation for and execution of one of Quarantine's more elaborate set-pieces.

Trailers for Twilight, Beer for My Horses, Seven Pounds, Vinyan, Underworld: Rise of the Lycans and Dying Breed conclude the selection.
The Verdict
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
Original or not a movie should always be judged on its own merits, but Quarantine doesn't have many merits of its own. Is it an unnecessary remake? Of course, but then again most remakes are. The thing that actually damns Quarantine is the fact that it is an inferior one that makes no effort to step out of the original's shadow. If you want a tense, claustrophobic POV horror flick set inside an apartment complex watch Rec; if you don't like reading subtitles and want a tension free, slow moving, slick POV horror flick set inside an apartment complex, you should really think about raising your expectations and improving your reading skills instead of watching Quarantine.

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