Tuesday, November 11, 2008

420 - Quarantine review

“Cloverdead.” “Dawn of the Field.” “Diary of the Clover.” I kept trying to think of stupid alternate titles for “Quarantine,” the latest horror flick told exclusively from the perspective of a video camera. This year has already seen the release of two of these, the giant monster flick “Cloverfield” and the George A. Romero zombiefest “Diary of the Dead.” “Quarantine” isn’t nearly as good as the former and it falls significantly short of the latter, but that’s not to say it’s bad; it’s a quick, bloody little screamer with simple ambitions that it satisfies admirably, if you’re into that sort of thing. You’ll probably know before purchasing your ticket whether or not this will push the right buttons, and though these aren’t buttons I particularly enjoy being pushed, it’s hard not to appreciate a decent genre piece.

In this one, the grinder meat consists of a reporter, some firemen, a couple cops, and the unfortunate tenants of a wretched apartment complex. It primarily follows Angela (Jennifer Carpenter), a TV reporter filming a puff piece at a fire station, and Scott (Steve Harris), her loyal cameraman who documents the entire experience with astounding dedication.

They follow a group of firemen into an apartment complex to respond to a medical call only to encounter a slight hiccup: some of the building’s residents have turned into flesh-hungry maniacs. I don’t know how hard it is to kill a man with your teeth, but I suspect the death isn’t a particularly pleasant one. Upon trying to leave, the crew finds that the building has been sealed off by the military, with a hail of gunfire being the reward for attempting to escape. I hate it when that happens.

So they argue, they fight, they struggle to make sense of the situation as the survivors gradually succumb to infection and severings of the carotid artery. There’s nothing in particular to make us remember the characters, but they’re not unsympathetic, either, just people caught in a bad situation who really don’t have enough time to make sense of it before they die.

“Quarantine” is filled with deaths of both the ambiguous and gory variety, and makes efficient use of its runtime, which graciously clocks in at less than 90 minutes. It’s pleasing to me these days to catch a horror film not dedicated solely to the hyper-sadistic torture of its characters. Give me plain old murder any day.

Frights pop up, characters scream and the screen shakes just enough to let us know that the cameraman is alarmed, and eventually the filmmakers shrug their shoulders and cram the closing minutes with kill after kill after kill. Angela and Scott stumble onto some newspaper clippings in the final ten that offer a pseudo explanation for what has transpired, even though it’s inconceivable that anyone cares by then. Virus, doomsday cult, satellite radiation, the devil, who cares? At least the bloodletting was fun enough while it lasted.


Toto said...

I'm amazed how much mileage we've gotten out of the video cam genre. But let's call it a wrap now, eh?

Dustin said...

I hope "Cloverfield" doesn't go down as part of a lame trend, because I thought that movie was a lot stronger than the handy cam gimmick. "Cloverfield" was a well-constructed movie that used the handy cam for perspective, a story-telling tool; the movie wasn't indulgent or defined by the first-person POV.

Steve C. said...

DIARY OF THE DEAD, better than this? Or, y'know, better than just about anything? Bite your tongue, mister.