STARRING:  Jennifer Carpenter, Jay Hernandez, Columbus Short, Greg Germann, Steve Harris, Dania Ramirez, Rade Sherbedgia, Jonathon Schaech

2008, Unknown running time, Directed by:
John Erick Dowdle

Think Cloverfield set indoors crossed with 28 Days Later . . . and you’ll have a good idea of what to expect of Quarantine. (If you’re an older cineaste, then think The Blair Witch Project meets George Romero’s The Crazies.)

A female reporter (Jennifer Carpenter) and her cameraman are doing one of those dull “human interest” TV spots about some firemen in L.A. when they get a distress call from a nearby apartment building. Camera running, the small news crew go along hoping for some excitement. Of course, what they get is a lot more excitement than they had bargained on. It would seem that the somewhat dilapidated apartment building is infected with an unknown virulent strain of rabies that instantaneously turns infected inhabitants into raging homicidal maniacs. One bite from the victims and you’re infected too. In a stunning and uncommon display of efficiency, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) arrives to quarantine the building and the inhabitants along with the firemen, policemen and camera crew now trapped inside. The residents have been written off, and if you so much peek out the window snipers will shoot at you. With time running out and the disease spreading, the small group of survivors desperately try to find a way out of the building . . .

If the plot sounds familiar, then you have probably seen the 2007 Spanish horror movie of which this is a remake, namely [REC]. Yup, that didn’t Hollywood long, almost faster than it takes the CDC to efficiently quarantine a downtown L.A. apartment block, even blocking cell phone reception and Internet access in the process.

"Hollywood is sensing that humanity is collectively acting crazier than usual . . ."

Blame the current End Of Times zeitgeist, but both the "horror movie filmed by a participant with a hand-held camera" and the "disease turning ordinary people into crazed killers" thing have practically become subgenres in their own rights as of late. This past year has seen the release not only of Cloverfield, but also of Diary of the Dead (directed by George Romero of all people!) and of course [REC]. And now this. It sure took those Blair Witch Project imitators a while to get going when one thinks about it! (Blair Witch was made back in 1999.)

"Mysterious disease turning people into crazed zombies" movies are also of course a dime a dozen since 28 Days Later practically reinvented the genre back in 2002 and even major blockbuster movies starring Will Smith have cashed in on the, er, craze since then. (Other recent examples also include The Signal, Automaton Transfusion and Pulse. Plus Stephen King’s novel Cell about a cell-phone signal turning people into zombies is about to be filmed as well.)

Why this sudden spate of zombie plague outbreak movies? Maybe Hollywood is sensing that humanity is collectively acting crazier than usual. Blame the hole in the ozone layer, blame the economic downturn or the morbid thought that Paris Hilton is getting her own Reality TV show. The truth is that all these zombie rage movies are a giant metaphor for road rage. Or just a plain old fear of strangers. Either way, hands up if you’ve had a recent road rage incident, some stranger Hulk-ing out on you. Or maybe you were the one Hulk-ing out. Point is that the only strangers you are most likely encounter in your daily routine would be some belligerent asshole whilst stuck in traffic. Same with these zombie flicks in which the only strangers you are likely to encounter are violent cannibals who want to eat your brains. Freud can write a dissertation on it and call it The Zombie Flick and the Discontents of Western Civilization . . .

Quarantine obviously doesn’t score high on the originality meter, but how does it rate as an example of these two subgenres? Well, for starters, the hand-held camera work didn’t want to make us want to throw up in our popcorn as it did in Cloverfield. Maybe that is because the camera is supposed to be handled by a professional cameraman working for a television station. Story-wise it not only makes sense, but also saves on one’s Dramamine bill. Sure, there are moments of confusion in which you’d be wishing that they had used a more pedestrian way to film the story. (And one in which they wouldn’t be accused of copy cat-ism.)

There are also one or two decent jump scares, plus one genuine “ewww, gross” moment involving an infected rat. Also, the film’s distrust of the authorities – it is revealed that they lie to the media by claiming that everyone in the building had been evacuated when they obviously haven’t – is to be admired. Acting is OK too, but actress Jennifer Carpenter of Exorcism of Emily Rose fame surely deserves some kind of award for giving the most hysterical over-the-top performance in horror movie since Marilyn Burns in the original 1974 Texas Chain Saw Massacre. One simply doesn’t know whether to pat her on her head for her high-spiritedness, or throw a bucket of ice-cold water over her. Maybe both.

Ultimately though the stink of over-familiarity hangs over the proceedings like the putrid rotting flesh of a zombie and Quarantine will have audiences rolling their eyes at this latest entry in the whole horror movie as documentary subgenre . . .



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