We’re back to our (ir)regularly scheduled program with some horror flicks! I figured I would kick things off with a bang, finally getting around to watching a film that has been heralded as one of the scariest movies ever made. Many fans (and even critics) at the very least consider [REC] to sit proudly in second place behind The Blair Witch Project for best found footage horror film, and pretty much everyone ever who has seen it has pooped themselves at least a little bit from witnessing the final 10 minutes.
[REC] is a Spanish found footage horror film about Ángela, a local news reporter and her cameraman Pablo who are filming a segment on night shift firefighters for their show While You’re Sleeping. While at the firehall, an alarm is sounded and they tag along with the emergency response team to investigate a woman trapped in an apartment. Once they reach the apartment building and investigate the old woman, they are locked and quarantined inside the building with the remaining residents by the army special forces and they begin to realize that they’re now trapped inside with a horrifying force. Residents of the building begin acting irrationally violent and cannibalistic, and as the blood flows, whatever happens to be affecting these people begins spreading to the new victims. Ángela, Pablo, and the remaining apartment dwellers need to look for any way out of the building, all while fending off the affected people and watching their numbers dwindle.
This film has done something special with itself in that, it has enjoyed at least moderate popularity outside of the horror scene ([REC] is almost universally praised within the horror community). For a low budget, found footage, foreign horror flick, [REC] is a somewhat known name. People recognize the cover, it spawned three sequels, and it was enough of a hit to warrant its own Hollywood remake, Quarantine. How does something like [REC] blow up to the level it’s at now?
It’s easy, [REC] toes the line between convention and invention beautifully. [REC] is best watched with a small group of friends. Not because it’s unrepentant nightmare fuel (which it is), but because it’s a movie with energy and charisma. You and your friends feed off of [REC] and each other when watching it. You all tense up when you see a little girl standing alone in a hallway, everyone’s hairs on edge as the camera slowly approaches her. You know, despite not having seen this movie before, you just know for a fact that she’s going to scream and make a scary face for a jump scare, but you don’t care. You’re too busy having fun, immersed in the movie to care. [REC] follows a lot of horror tropes and clichés throughout its runtime, and that might just be because it’s a decade old now, but it subverts them exactly when it needs to to keep you interested. It alternates between providing a safe, expected, and curated horror experience and a pants-shittingly terrifying barrage of unexpected terror. This is one of the first films to include now-horror veteran Javier Botet in one of his first ever roles. Nowadays Botet is cropping up in more and more major Hollywood horror flicks so people are starting to recognize him immediately, but back in 2007, I guarantee nobody was ready to see him on screen.
The thing that surprised me the most about [REC] is how little I disliked the found footage aspect of it. Living in 2017, found footage is a played out, boring, stagnant subgenre plagued by microbudget films that are cobbled together hastily just to make a quick buck. [REC] was released back in the heyday of found footage, the same year the first Paranormal Activity swept across theaters. The two things I hate the most about found footage is that the main characters are usually total assholes, and the camera work is less competent than a five year old so the filmmakers don’t have to put any work or artistry into their project. [REC] rectifies that pretty much immediately by making Pablo, the man holding the camera a cameraman. His job is literally to use a camera adeptly. His coworker, Ángela, is a news correspondent. In other words, it’s her job to be engaging and charismatic in front of a camera, and when shit hits the fan you care about her as a result of that. Boom, problems solved.
[REC] is a damn good movie. It’s well made, well acted, and really well paced (it’s just over ten minutes shy of an hour and a half, it wastes zero time), and does a fantastic job of keeping you on the edge of your seat the whole time. It’s a great entry-level horror flick to show your friends who might not be into all the weird stuff you watch, unless they refuse to watch movies with subtitles in which case, get better friends. And just to chuck a shovel full of coal into the hype train, yes the final ten minutes of [REC] absolutely makes your skin crawl. This is the stuff nightmares are made of, and I have to commend everyone involved for how tense, uncomfortable, and scary the entire final scene of the movie is.