Stas Werno 16/04/2008
In some circles, the new Spanish horror flick '[REC]' is causing such a stir you'd think the sequel to Cloverfield had already hit the cinemas, but despite this hysteria being backed up by reviews that go as far as calling it 'the scariest film ever made' (Bizarre), it has seen limited release, with even allegedly bohemian and world cinema-savvy London Town only showing it in two of its many screens (and Cineworld screens at that). More importantly, and most unfortunately, my impression has been that no one in the wider cinema going public seems to have heard of it.
If you fall in to this category, then please let me enlighten you. '[REC]' is the story of a budding young reporter and her cameraman who are filming a documentary for their local TV channel in Barcelona about what goes on in the city 'While You're Sleeping'. This, of course, means the whole film is shot through a single shaky hand-held camera as per 'The Blair Witch Project' and the aforementioned 'Cloverfield' - bear with me. In this episode of the show, we have the pleasure of spending the night with the local fire department. After some monotony at the station there is a call out to a lovely old block of flats where the residents are having a bit of trouble with a loud and suspiciously violent reclusive old neighbour. One thing leads to another and before you know it, several people are trapped (due to an enforced quarantine) in said block of flats, trying to find an escape whilst doing their best to avoid the blood stained, fast, screaming 'infected' type of people that we have been familiar with since '28 Days Later' (or so we think).
So far, it it may sound very run-of-the-mill, but as those of you who've caught the rather effective trailers on Youtube will already understand (one of which I've included below), there's a reason for the buzz surrounding this movie. As it turns out, great as they are, even those trailers do little justice to how brilliant this film is. It is incredibly well put together. It has got genuinely believable characters that you really do warm to (and, in some cases, detest). And I believe, I'm going to be frank with you, that it may be the most terrifying film that has ever been made. As a product of the modern age, I like to think I am pretty much desensitised to horror movies; the amount of films that have genuinely scared me as an adult - and I am prone to obsessively watching the genre - can be counted on my thumbs. In terms of inducing pure fear, '[REC]' far surpasses them both.
If you are, like me, generally inclined to watch horror films for the thrill of the ride and the dark imagery, rather than the (lack of) frights, a lot of this film will do little more than make you think 'Wow, this does x, y and z much better than 'A', 'B' and 'C II - The Return' did, how super'. But there is a point where this changes drastically. Part of '[REC]' had me so terrified that I had to slouch down in my seat in case there was anything behind me whilst the girlfriend (who had thankfully spent most of the film trying her best to cover her eyes and ears) comforted me. It had me so terrified I had to check the back of our car before we headed home. It had me so terrified I stayed an extra 5 minutes on the loo after the boss left me alone to close up, because I'd just remembered I'd left the trap door to our basement open. If I'm going to be totally honest with you, it had me so terrified I tried to sleep with the lights on for the first time since my first tuft of undergrowth appeared. And yes, I feel ashamed for all of the above (and still a little shaken).
I can do no more than urge you to try and catch it before it disappears (only to get replaced, in an extraordinarily quick move by Hollywood, by the Americanised remake that is to be known as 'Quarantine', which is due only a few months from now). If the best comedies are the ones that make you laugh the most, and the best dramas are the ones that make you cry the most, then '[REC]' is a sure-fire runner for being the best horror film.