Rec

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I had heard a lot about Rec before watching it in class. I had seen a snippet of it in my Com100 class back in second year, and had screamed when something suddenly fell. I was one of those who had gasped when it was announced that Rec would be the next movie to be screened. Rec was the first horror film that I was watching in class that I was actually familiar with, but not so familiar that I was still terrified of what may happen.

Rec, being in Spanish, was subtitled, and it required me to open my eyes for the most part of the movie (which I tend to not do during horror films) in order to understand what was going on. The story wasn’t very complicated, and even though plots are often secondary in horror films, it was still actually pretty good. The explanation behind this movie didn’t feel forced and it didn’t ruin it at all. But of course, horror movies thrive on imagery, and with that, Rec does not fall short.

The found footage format really works for this movie, making you feel as if you’re really in the building along with all of them, and that you’re also running from room to room trying to escape the bloodthirsty zombies or whatever they were. You really get thrown into the film, and it’s quite stressful. I felt like I couldn’t breathe properly for a while after watching the movie, and during the movie itself, I was one of those who’d scream or yelp or cover my eyes and ears when another zombie creature attacks. I think it was a really effective horror movie due to the stress it brought about, but it was still really fun to watch. I think that last bit is due to the fact that I watched with a roomful of people, and all of us were reacting. I think I’d be terrified if I was watching it alone, and I wouldn’t be able to sleep.

When you think about it, Rec can be a bit predictable. There are some set-ups that are so obvious, such as the little girl sort of being the source, the old lady and Colombian woman disappearing after being left in the hallway, and the empty penthouse apartment having to do something with it all. When Pablo puts the camera into the attic, it was pretty much a giveaway to the fact that there was something that the camera will see or attack the camera, but it still elicited a scream. There are so many of those moments, with a fireman falling down, the little girl spitting blood, and the guy in the hazmat suit attacking the vain old dude. A lot of surprises, shocks, “gulat” moments, but there was still the climax and highlight, and even then Rec was still effectively eliciting screams. With you being so involved due to the found footage format, the shockers don’t really disappoint.

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[REC]

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I was ecstatic when I heard that we were watching REC in class. It has quickly become one of my favorite horror films of all time. I think one of the reasons I love REC so much is because I love its raw energy and its ability to surprise you. Now I know it sounds like it should be the most obvious thing for a horror film to have the ability to surprise, but sadly more often than not that isn’t the case anymore with a lot of horror films these days. And if they do still retain that certain ability to surprise, they are there simply as cheap, empty scares. Meant to do nothing but instill a momentary kind of fear in the viewer. It’s the kind of scare that doesn’t really have a purpose. In REC however, each delivery propels the story forward and also digs deep into your skin, as if we get continual wake up calls saying we’re here in the middle of the story. The way that REC is done never fails to keep you on the edge of your seat.

For example, when the fireman falls from the stairs and is found to be bleeding profusely, it is startling, and absolutely terrifying, because everyone in the apartment is now faced with the horrifying reality that something is up there, something evil and could kill them and that they are now trapped and must face whatever it is. It instills terror in the tenants, and that terror translates to the audience.We feel just as trapped and doomed as they are, but we can’t turn away because we are interested to see what happens next. I think the fact that we are viewing all this from Pablo’s hand-held camera also adds to the feeling that we’re in the film experiencing everything as it unfolds. I especially like how we are all just as clueless as everyone in the room. In that way, we really feel like we are more than a viewer, we are taking part in the situation. And the worst part? We have absolutely no control. It’s like we’re strapped onto that camera with our hands tied behind our backs. It’s almost literally like a roller coaster ride.

I suppose my favorite thing about REC would be that whole hand-held camera aspect. I’ve always been a little iffy about movies in the found footage category. For me, it’s either you do it well, or not at all. A favorite example of a well done found footage horror film would be the Blair Witch Project. For me, the Blair Witch Project is one of the most well done, and scariest films I have ever seen. And the most amazing part? The monster was never even shown. Which I think is a point of discussion, because sometimes it’s even better when we don’t see the monster. It’s a matter of familiarity deflating the horror. I’ve noticed that in horror films that weren’t particularly successful, the moment it sopped being scary was the moment the monster was revealed. I agree with what was said in class, that by withholding the monster you make the horror effective because there’s always that part inside your head that over thinks and comes up with all these awful pictures of what the monster truly is and what it can do. And so I think this was also successfully done in REC, wherein, although we saw many of the zombies run around and start eating everyone in the apartment, the scariest part of the movie was when we were trapped with Pablo and Angela in the attic, and we had no idea just what exactly was lurking in the dark. Those few minutes were some of the most heart-stopping minutes of my life.

All in all, I think [REC] is an amazingly scary film. And that’s something rare nowadays.

Radically Engrossing Cinema

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REC follows a young reporter, Angela,  along with a cameraman, Pablo, who document the night shift of the local fire station. Fortunately (unfortunately later on), the boring night became a dramatic one as they get a call from a building about a trapped woman in one of the apartment units. As they walk in the apartment, they find all the residents huddled up at the lobby. When they visited the old lady in the room, they find out that something is obviously wrong with her. The chaotic nightmare starts there as the building gets quarantined due to a suspected virus. This documentary-style of horror film will surely surprise the audience as it takes on a new perspective of horror cinema.

I’ve watched the American remake of REC a few years back so I already had an idea of what the plot is all about. I honestly thought I wouldn’t get scared at all knowing the basics of the story, but I stand corrected. The original version was way more terrifying, mostly because of the language. I always think that there’s something demonic about the Spanish language, maybe due to its resemblance with Latin. Aside from the language, the cinematography is also remarkable. The tight spaces gave me claustrophobia even with just watching. The indie effect and the acting of the lead character also contributed to its mockumentary style, that it felt as though it was real. The shakiness of the camera may be distracting for others, but I thought it gave a surprising effect whenever it suddenly turns into a scary scene.

My favorite part in REC would be the ending. The last few minutes of the movie just gave me the chills of the chills. I imagined the Medeiros girl to look like a zombie girl, but not that kind of zombie girl. For a fan of imagery, that image surely sticked to my mind. The pacing throughout the story was just right to build up the tension at the ending. You can just feel the escalating emotions within the room, both in the movie and the room we’re watching in. In Filipino lingo: Nakakastress.

Not knowing what the very root cause of the infection also contributed to how remarkable it is. Is it a zombie virus? Demonic possession? Zombie demonic possession? It’s not clarified, but that makes it much better. Just when you thought it’s just another zombie movie, the screen blasts out something terrifying beyond words.

I can’t say much about it because it was just really a classic straight-to-the-point horror movie. The plot is not necessarily that strong, but said factors aided the movie to be a really fantastic one – one of the greatest I’ve seen so far. Although there are other films that tried to give the first POV experience (I actually liked Paranormal Activity 3,) there’s still something so special about REC that makes it stand out from the rest. I don’t know about you, but all I’m sure of is I got trouble sleeping or even being in the dark and narrow spaces after watching this movie.

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As a horror enthusiast, one of my greatest passions (or guilty pleasures, depending) is the zombie movie. Many people say that it’s overused and boring and that there has been no fresh material since Romero, if that. Sometimes I’m inclined to agree. But sometimes a movie crops up that’s true to the spirit of the zombie genre without sacrificing any of the basic, core rules. It’s familiar, you know what’s going to happen and how, but it still somehow makes your toes curl. It’s a movie that turns the already familiar ride into something fun and exciting. That’s what REC was for me.

I actually saw Quarantine first and, while I was generally a bit ambivalent about the concept, watching REC has actually made me appreciate it better. I have a marked fondness for the found film (sub?)genre despite the fact that I only like a very small percentage of them, so for me it was less a question of taking pleasure in the tediously predictable than it was an appreciation for it hitting all the right notes at the right times.

As I already mentioned, zombie movies have a reputation for being a bit redundant. As a result, even its underlying themes have been over-analyzed to hell and back. When speaking the language of monster metaphors, it’s clear enough that zombies represent our fear of the mundane or of becoming part of the mindless masses (see: Dawn of the Dead, consumer capitalism.) To veer more towards the realm of repression, zombies can and have been used to talk about the effects of uninhibited human “hunger” (impulse urges will lead to the collapse of society!), and are also, among many other examples, used to fuel less socially acceptable survivalist fantasies. Interestingly enough, the latter sort of story tends to bring with it strong female characters. I guess it’s hard to keep repressing female creativity when society is stuck living in the ruins of its former glory. But boy do some stories still try (looking at you, Walking Dead.)

Moralistic issues are also a staple of the zombie genre: at what point do we stop being human, what is the right way to balance survival and humanity, is survival the most potent justification for our actions, and on and on. Dead Girl took place outside the typical apocalypse scenario, providing credence to its status as a movie made horrible by the conscious actions of its human characters as opposed to any true scare brought about by the existence of zombies. Along those lines, we have movies like The Zombie Diaries that pits survival against morality and argues all the usual things you would expect from a zombie movie re: organized social structures, “monsters”, and matters of survival vs. morality.

These things just highlight the great thing about REC, which is: by forcing its characters into a deadly, claustrophobic situation it pushes past the need to question itself and instead focuses on the nuances of the narrative. It’s a story about survival, without the requisite need to step back and look at society and wonder. There’s simply no time for any of that in REC and I, for one, appreciate it.

REC

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Rec, a movie filmed in 2007, tells the story of a reporter named Angela, and her cameraman Pablo. The tandem were to interview the local fire department, but instead is side tracked when the station receives a call about a woman being trapped in the apartment building. Things started to turn for the worse when they found out that there is an unknown virus circling the building which causes a lockdown, and in turn trapping all of the firefighters, residents and both Angela and Pablo inside the establishment. As they waited for the quarantine service to arrive, they were forced to fight for their lives against humans turned into zombie-like monsters by the virus. The fighting and the running force Angela and Pablo up the penthouse where they have another big discovery of their own. The source of the virus, a young girl thought to be possessed, was kept in the ver penthouse that they find themselves in. In darkness, they seek refuge and try their best to run away from this possessed and deformed woman. The lights of pablo’s camera, the only thing that gave vision the entire movie are broken, and all that was left to witness the scene was the video camera.

Aside from the style of the movie that made me dizzy (Pablo running with camera while filming), it also did not catch my attention that much. Maybe it’s the gloomy feel of the film that made it seem so old that failed keep me in tune all throughout. It also had the usual people get a virus then turn into zombies plot. I had an inkling of how every scene would play, and what trick would come next. However, even with all these things, I must admit that I still was caught off guard in some cases that caused me to squeal, or give out a very very short scream. Overall, I think the movie would be categorized under on of the more general / stereotypical horror film, but would need to try harder to scare people off.

Rec

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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.
 

Rec

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Watching Rec was a very fast-paced, breathless, and hurrying experience. I guess the fact that the way it was filmed lends to that and in terms of setting up people for scares it was novel, really. The film deals with some ambiguity at the very start and basically becomes the foundation for much of scare factor as it goes on.

As far as the monstrous element in the film goes, the movie isn’t so keen on divulging information about it, a move I commend in light of how it facilitated that feeling of isolation in the viewers as well from those outside who seem to be in the know. That sense of unknowing further facilitates that fear of the unknown and later, as the unknown is known, it becomes an instance where you simply can’t seem to digest or make sense of this horrid revelation.

For me, I like the way the movie avoids or subverts the obvious line of thinking where we all conclude that the feral people are zombies and just leaves them at ‘Infected’ because it leaves me with nothing to cling on to in terms of easy answers. Usually in a horror movie there’s be that one eureka moment when the big reveal shows how to stop the horror, but for Rec, through to the end, you are peppered with these minute revelations instead and you are left without a sense of really knowing how to deal with the dilemma.

Still, zombie or infected, the fear is still delivered, by and large, through the rabid former-people chasing the trapped camera crew around the building. Thinking about it a little, this kind of horror scares people in much the same way that maybe the idea of cannibalism puts off people. It’s that idea of that uncivilized step backwards into an environment where survival and hostility are one and the same. The cascading heel-face-turn of people who were themselves victims of the violence is horrible in the sense I think because it reminds us of the capacity for uncivilized descent into an uncontrollable mob-like mentality. One infected is scary enough but the idea of a horde is horrendous  

Another general element of horror aside from the obvious use of the monstrous element is the feeling of entrapment. In the movie, as the occupants move about trying to get to possible escape routes and continually get obstructed by people outside of the building, at some point the whole building begins to get a lot smaller. This shrinking zone of comfort is further augmented by the continual penetration of the new smaller comfort zone by a foreign element.

One thing I felt rather odd or seemingly unnatural through the course of the movie was the insistence of the heroine, Angela, on filming the events. Yes, at first it made sense when they were just filming it as part of their role as a news crew and also when they were being kept out of the loop of things by the government outside. Later, though, it began to feel unnatural as things escalated towards the deaths and infection of others and still Angela insisted Pablo keep filming. It makes sense to do so from the narrative point of view but this putting of the need to survive in preference to documenting the sequence of events seems in most cases to be unthinkable.

In parts of the movie I basically keep finding myself finding relief every time the cameraman puts down or turns off the camera because I feel the characters are making a willful effort to survive. But every time they pick the camera back or it turns back on I feel there is a sense of horror in that act as well. There’s that notion where I feel like I don’t want to know more.

The ending of the movie is an interesting twist where it finally does make the distinction that apart from the scientific explanation of ‘Infection’, there also exists the idea of demonic possession as a parallel on the religious side. The religious aspect coming into play here is an interesting move because by that, they seemingly provide the audience with that final bid for salvation from the horror. Of course, it never happens but I find it interesting that in that moment where they are quite possibly in the worst possible situation where there are infectees inside and outside the penthouse, an unknown room, it is not as disquieting having the element of the religious aspect in play at the moment.