I have always had a love-hate relationship with the found footage genre of horror films. The first time I watched The Blair Witch Project, I was floored. It was a little gem, and I wanted more. Fortunately, there was Cloverfield. Man, those were good times. It was not until the release of these Paranormally Boring Activities (the first one was okay, though) that I began to dread the future of this sub-genre. And then I stumbled upon 2008’s Quarantine, which I found out was a remake of the Spanish horror film REC, which, in turn, I immediately downloaded. Maybe, just maybe, all is not lost.
One of the things that I like the most about the sub-genre is the way that these films offer fresh new takes (most of the time) on some of the tropes we have all become accustomed to. The sub-genre’s main gimmick, I think, is to play with the human person’s fear of the Unknown. These movies prove that sometimes, whatever it is that isn’t seen in the camera can be scary. REC is a good example of that. The residents of the apartment aren’t really aware of what is really going on inside, nor do Angela, the “main” character, and the firemen, know. I put quotation marks on the word main there because I would like to point out something noteworthy about this particular sub-genre. Using shaky and oftentimes nausea-inducing camerawork will make the audience think that they’re identifying whoever it is holding the camera as the main character. It’s either that, or whoever the camera focuses on during the entirety of the film. However, I think otherwise. I don’t think there are legitimate main characters in these types of films. Usually, one would identify the main character easily at the start of the film. The story would somehow make us feel for the character by giving him a little backstory, making him easy to empathize with, and voilá, you have a main character. In this sub-genre, however, little to no backstory is given. We start rooting for the characters because these films need to follow a certain formula, especially because they are from the horror genre. In REC, you get Angela, the supposed Final Girl of the movie, and her cameraman, Pablo. Not much information is given about the two, except for the fact that they’re shooting for a show called While You’re Asleep, which still begs the question of whether or not people actually watch it. Then they get into situations that they’re not really prepared for, they strive to get answers to their questions, and then by the end of the film, since they are the only ones left standing, we are somehow tricked into seeing them as the main characters. I don’t know, maybe I just have a specific mindset of how main characters should be.
I said love-hate relationship because for the most part, these movies also have another gimmick: plotholes. There are a lot of times when the camera suddenly gets dropped by the character, and it freezes, and then it resumes after God knows how long. While I like how we’re supposed to fit in the missing bits and pieces of the story, I still feel a bit cheated. Is it a ploy of them to make us rack our brains for possible explanations about what happened after the drop, or are the filmmakers really just that lazy, and didn’t want to explain a gaping plothole in the story? Afer seeing it the fourth time, why Pablo still decided to film everything when he should have been running from terror is still beyond me.
I’m not saying that this is a bad movie. It’s far from that. I like how the movie is a fresh new take on the zombie sub-genre (a zombie found-footage sub-sub-genre, anyone?), and I think it lives up pretty well by tapping into the people’s fear of the Unknown.