Monday, 14 March 2011

Rec (2007) - If this had been English language, I don't think it would have half the cultural caché

Viewing context:
Bought it when I had some spare credit after trading a phone in down' second hand game shop. After getting four pretty decent games I had six quid credit left so had a browse round the world cinema DVD section and I had heard good things about this. Watched it with Tasha on a Friday night.

Written and directed by Jaume Balagueró and Paco Plaza, with Luis Berdejo helping out with the writing. I always give a film more credit if it is written and directed by the same person (or people in this case); it just makes it seem more raw and that someone has put a lot of themselves into its creation. I haven't seen anything else from these lot, but it seems they have been pretty firmly in the horror genre. Despite not loving this, it did enough things right to convince me that Rec 2 is at least worth checking out.

What happened:
A TV reporter and her cameraman are following the activities of a general night on shift with the fire department. A seemingly dull call to an apartment where somebody has locked themselves in, grows into a much more interesting situation. When they get in the room, they find an old woman, drenched in blood, moaning and shuffling around with her hands held in front of her. To us, the ever-wise viewer, it's pretty clear what is about to happen, but the witless public services, other residents in the building and the aforementioned TV crew proceed to run around screaming incoherently for the rest of the film.

What I liked:
Suspense (in bits): When the film ramped up the suspense rather than just have the camera flailing around with plenty'a screaming going on, I was on edge. Hand on mouth and everything.
Camera placement: The handheld aesthetics worked efficiently at putting you right in there, heightening vulnerability. The limitation of being kept to the cameraman's point of view was used further to heighten intrigue at times where you weren't given the whole picture; only what the camera experienced. Further, the shot was often quite well set up from afar, where it just needed to be a little higher or lower in order to see what was going on. The fact it wasn't bang on added to the intrigue.
Final flurry: It must be said that the film ended with a pretty decent flurry of activity.

Incessant screaming: You may have already picked up on the displeasure I experienced in incessant screaming. The main perpetrator was the lead protagonist who was just needlessly annoying throughout.
Little character: After having set up an interesting situation, and ending with a great deal of intrigue and suspense, the middle section could have been done in five minutes. Yet it was dragged out, doing and saying the same thing again and again, neither moving the narrative along, nor using that time to create any sort of message out of the eclectic mix of supporting characters in the apartment's residents. The main characters barely existed so these lot didn't stand a chance.
Lack of spectacle: Having created few interesting or fleshed out characters, it could have redeemed itself, had the spectacle been hyped up further, but despite getting the few incidents it featured bang on (the body that fell down the middle of the stairwell was a highlight) the rest was a little inadequate. This goes for both gore/shock value, as well as genuine fright or terror. They were far too few infrequent. I reiterate that this wouldn't have been as essential, had the film established some characters.

Voyeurism: The hand held aesthetic and the fact that the people controlling that camera were reporters, worked to both ensure good reason for the action being constantly followed while commenting on society's need to watch such events as spectacle. There is a double standard created where the viewer may think "why do you insist on filming all this", whilst still thinking, "but don't stop though, I'm quite enjoying it". This worked great for Romero's Diary of the Dead, a film with some attempt to create characters (despite it also falling short on spectacle). Rec though, as far as I am concerned, failed to hammer home the idea or make as coherent a comment on the need to voyeuristically record, despite it being the central premise; hence the title rec. As a result , it seems the idea was more of a stylistic gimmick rather than a social comment as was the case in Diary of the Dead.
Information: The main justification that is convincingly given for the continued recording is the conspiracy angle that the film takes, considering that they are quarantined inside the building and it is clear that the 'powers that be' don't want whatever is happening to get out to the public.

Scene of the film:
The sequence at the end, after the furious running around screaming that was the rest of the film has all but ended, we get back to a little bit of intrigue and suspense.

Performance of the film:
Whoever screamed the least.

Final word:
Great premise, flashes of brilliance, but too sloppy most of the time - not in a good way (blood, guts, sloppy... Get it).

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