There is a cold efficiency to [REC] that I never imagined I would admire from a film. It has no character development. None whatsoever. Zip. Zero. Nunca. [REC] is a conveyor belt horror film, a linear path one steps on to and never steps off of. There are only two ways out of this fear contract: Hop the rail and jump ship midway or wait for Balagueró and Plaza to throw you off at high speed.
Don’t mind the straight line implications of calling a film linear, either. There is nothing wrong with being fixed to a track if the destination is a brick wall of terror and the conductors are hellbent on rocketing forwards with all the subtlety of an ICBM. I meant what I said. [REC] is a fear contract. It will scare you. [REC] will mess your shit up full stop. I don’t care if you’re a seasoned vet or not, it will crack the whip on your heart, racing blood around your circulatory track at a velocity the likes of which your veins haven’t known in years.
Though its widest release on DVD later this year will grant a contrary illusion, [REC] is actually the first of the trifecta of recent fear flicks to feature POV-only filmmaking; the other two being the popular CLOVERFIELD and the commercially elusive DIARY OF THE DEAD. This Spanish firewater of a flick is about a nighttime news gal tasked with producing a segment on firefighters. The first call of the night is to an apartment building where an odd old lady is disturbing the neighbors with maddening screams behind her locked door. The police have called the fire department to break the door down, but instead of just a senile old lady, our civic heroes, videographers, and apartment tennants have got a throat munching old lady on their now bloody hands. Sealing the situation like a pressure cooker is the government outside who, possessing knowledge neither viewer nor characters have been privy to, has seen fit to quarantine them all within.
Yes, zombies are the name of the game. There are no new rules here, nothing inventive to their undead status. I’ll stake, however, that this dearth of originality isn’t a problem for once. They may be no different than the flesh lovers of late and there may be absolutely no character development in the script, but the flick as a whole is unrelenting. I should pause here, though, to throw down one of the disclaimers I feel are always necessary whenever my writing becomes a bit zealous: [REC] is not the epoch of horror. Watching it was not the scariest experience of my life and my underwear went unsoiled. BUT tt did quicken my pulse and keep my heart rate running laps. It widened my eyes, made me jump, and bestowed a variety of ‘Holy Shit!’ moments stronger than many a contender in 2007.
I am also seasoned. A friend of mine, a gent hailing by the name of Gercken, who never misses a horror marathon at our house was pulling his hair out the entire time. It would not be a misquote to report the first words out of his mouth after the ride ended were an energetic, “THAT MOVIE SCARED ME THE FUCK OUT!”
[REC] is capable of eliciting such a gradient of responses because directors Balagueró and Plaza know how to escalate fear. They use their one-camera hook without pretense and the free spirited result is indisputable fun. There is no score, obviously, but the sound mix is an ultra-realistic medley that’ll cement you inside the apartment walls. The camera work is far steadier than the spinning shenanigans of CLOVERFIELD while also being more professional than BLAIR WITCH.
The script’s tossing out of character development doesn’t hurt the experience. It is less than 90 80 minutes long with about 70 60 of those going from trot to gallop to space shuttle. It does, however, hinder it in the cannon of the genre. I can praise its lean lifestyle, but [REC] will never hold a candle to a classic like THE THING. It doesn’t even come close to THE MIST in heart and soul. [REC] is a classic of another breed, living in the here and now, but still scary as all hell. It may be a fleeting classic, but, man do I dig it. When the lights go out and the camera makes that dreaded switch to night vision…Let’s just say I was surprised that when I turned my lights back on Gercken wasn’t bald.