a critiQal film review Quarantine (2008)

  • DVD
  • Blu-Ray

Plot: While shadowing a LA fire station, television reporter Angela Vidal (Carpenter) and her cameraman (Harris) respond to a 911 call from a small apartment building. They soon discover that one of the residents has been infected by something unknown. As the infection spreads, they try to escape - only to discover the CDC has cut off all escape routes in order to contain the contagion. When the quarantine is lifted, the news crew's video tape is the only evidence of what took place.

630 words (Est. Reading Time 3m 9s)

When I first heard about new horror movie Quarantine, with it’s handheld camera, all I could think of was Cloverfield (2008) rip-off. Still, I figured I’d check it out eventually, so when the opportunity presented itself, I snagged a copy at the local Blockbuster®.

Would Quarantine turn out better than I’d hoped, or would I be glad it was the only movie I had to watch this weekend?

Lead actress Jennifer Carpenter is not immediately recognizable (having only been a major star in The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005) previously), which works exceptionally well for her in this film. Since she is only vaguely recognizable, her role of TV reporter works even better, as she seems oddly familiar to the viewer, but can’t quite be placed – kind of like most real TV reporters.

There are a few more recognizable cast members (Rade Serbedzija, Greg Germann, “Heroes” (TV) Dania Ramierez), but they again aren’t so recognizable as to take over the film. Instead, they mingle well with the rest of the cast, and the group dynamic does a good job of helping to heighten the tension as their suspicions and fears gradually turn on each other.

The film works so well thanks in large part to the way the scene is set. Since the film revolves around a TV reporter and her cameraman as they follow around some local firefighters – who themselves stumble upon a horrific situation before finding themselves trapped – the film could easily have started at the situation in question.

Thankfully, however, there is a decent amount of build-up to set the scene. Instead, the first sequences center around the TV reporter first meeting the firefighters and concentrating on different aspects of daily life for a firefighter. While the viewer knows going into that Quarantine is a horror film, these sequences let the viewer relax, as they involve themselves in the friendly, flirty banter between the female reporter and the 2 firemen.

Having been set at ease, then, the viewer isn’t as tensed as expected when the first surprise happens, and it comes as an even bigger shock. Once inside the house, the terror quickly escalates, leaving the viewer on the edge of their seat for most of the rest of the film. There are slight reprieves, but even then, the viewer knows the ghouls are lurking around slightly off-screen, keeping the tension at a low boil.

While the shaky camera effects take some getting used to, the first calm sequences help the viewer adjust to it, so by the time the horror starts coming at the camera, the viewer is already acclimated to the camera movements. With people bumping and pushing the camera out of their way in times of panic, the viewer really feels closer to the events, and the tension becomes almost palpable at times.

All in all, Quarantine is a lot better than I ever expected. It’s slow-yet-entertaining buildup does double duty by putting the viewer at ease while at the same time getting the viewer acclimated to the handheld camera effect. Then, just when the viewer is feeling like the film isn’t actually going to be a horror film after all, events start moving much quicker, and the tension ratchets up into the stratosphere.

While lots of horror films try to do the calming intro before tossing horror at the viewers, most of these are rather forced, and do nothing to really put the viewer at ease. Instead, they just make the viewer want to fast-forward to the horror, thus negating the calming effect totally. Quarantine, on the other hand, seems to have worked as hard on the calming effect of the intro as they did on the rest of the film, and it shows.

Rent this one today, horror fans – you won’t be disappointed.

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