Rec was a fun, fast-paced horror movie. Before anything, one thing I found particularly funny about the movie is when a zombie comes up to the camera and just freaks out on the cameraman, I imagine the zombie going up to the literal in-the-film camera and really just shaking it while shouting and foaming at the mouth; this absurd, silly image is one of the things, when you think about it, is the disadvantage of the found footage/hand-held documentary style in horror, to make the viewer experience the feeling of fear of being attacked you sacrifice the an aspect of realism in the film. On the other hand, it is the use of this style that makes the film fast-paced and exciting; the motions of the camera are jerky and keep moving, reflecting the point of views of the characters. Even though you don’t get too emotionally involved with the characters themselves, you end up feeling their panic and fear because you literally see the world through the eyes of one of the characters, the cameraman.
The more the characters are run around the apartment building trying desperately to avoid the zombies, which are also increasing in number, the smaller building feels. Watching the film, you feel like you’re holding your breath. There is excitement in the horror as you never know whether you’ll run into a zombie and you find yourself asking, how are they even getting around and where are they hiding when they aren’t around? These aren’t the traditional zombies, which lumber around with a sort of glaze in their eyes, rather these zombies retain much of the strength and speed they had as a human, except they lose all sense and inhibition. There is this feeling of entrapment and claustrophobia as the characters focus on trying to escape the building. Suddenly, this building which served as the home of most of the characters is way too small for them. They can’t seem to put enough distance between themselves and the turned zombies. Contributing to this claustrophobia is their relative helplessness against the zombies. The firemen and the policeman are turned quite early on, which left pretty much just Angela and Pablo, but Pablo is carrying the camera and can’t really do much to fight against the zombies. Throughout the movie, we pretty much only see Angela freaking out and her identity as female adds to the feeling of horror.
To the people stuck in the building, everything seems reversed. The building, which is the home for most of the characters is instead of a place of safety and refuge is a place of danger and chaos. The police and military that are supposed to be there to protect and save them as innocent civilians are just standing by and threatening to shoot them if they try to escape their building to safety. And the people who were once their families and friends are now crazed monsters who seem to want nothing to but to inflict violence against them. This is the essence of a zombie film – the transformation of the familiar to the unfamiliar, the canny to the uncanny.
It might be questionable how effective at producing fear zombies are now that they have become a somewhat overused monster, but there is something inarguable uncanny (even in the normal, non-Freudian sense of the word) about facing a zombie. In Rec, unlike some other zombie movies, no one knows what a zombie is. While, as a viewer, you can clearly see that, oh, the guy got bitten and is now a rabid zombie (and you know this because of prior media exposure), but the characters have no idea what’s going on. Early on, when someone is bitten and is turned, the characters try to restrain them, failing that, corral them, and not shoot them in the head, which is what is typically understood to be the way to permanently put a zombie down. The characters in the movie don’t automatically realize that the person they once knew is no longer in that zombie. They look at the person/zombie, but see the person they once knew, except, clearly, there is something wrong – the person is covered in blood, their eyes take on a different, scary quality, and they seem to lose all reason.
This is when the Uncanny of Freud comes in. On the surface, the person seems the fine (their senses and mobility are unimpaired), at the same time there is something distinctly wrong, yet they have no idea why. All they know is that the fat lady is injured, so when they spot her and can see that something’s off, they try to talk to her. They shoot her more out of panic than an intentional decision to put down a zombie. When they face the little girl, Jennifer, they again try to talk to her. Even though she already bit her mother and run of and it’s apparent that she’s no longer herself, they still treat her like the little girl they think she is. Zombies are totally out of their conceptual schema. For the early part, they can’t figure out the proper way to deal with these transformed people and this gets quite a few of them killed. It is only later that they figure out that there is not bargaining or consoling these zombies, but they don’t set out to kill them – partly because Angela and her cameraman Pablo just want to escape and partly (maybe) because they don’t believe that they’re able to kill them.
The Uncanny is prominent in Rec (and other zombie movies) and is one of the main sources of the feeling of horror while watching.