I know my opinion may be the minority here, but Rec is a movie high on screaming and low on scares.
Fans of the fake-documentary style of horror movie may find this tale of a bunch of people locked in a building with a “zombie” virus frightening. I certainly hope so, because this style of filmmaking ensures that, besides scares, Rec has little else to offer. The characters range from mildly irritating to boringly flat–there’s the cop determined to keep everyone locked up, an irritating young reporter who just wants to film everything, including the agonizing deaths of several innocent people, a couple of Asians who have maybe 1 minute of dialogue–all together–and a woman and her sick child, who want to escape the quarantine zone to find antibiotics. And, of course, the camera-man himself, a non-entity named Pablo who represents one of my greatest criticisms of the film.
The whole shaky-cam, “this is really happening and being video-recorded thing” is a shtick horror-movies use to add a sense of realism and believability to their proceedings, to convince you that what you are watching actually happened, somewhere. But that sense of believability (in this case already undermined by the presence of zombies) is undermined when the man behind the camera fails to act like any real person ever would. Who stands there filming during a virus outbreak, but says next to nothing the entire time? Who is callous enough to film a man getting his face eaten off from two feet away, but not actually stop to pull the infected face-eater off of him? Who is brave or stalwart enough to bother to film a horde of howling monsters racing up the stairs towards them instead of, you know, running for their lives?
Pablo is so bland as a character that it’s easy to forget he’s even supposed to be there. One you remember he is there, you want him to die for being such a cold, unfeeling monster.
All the skay-cam in the world can’t disguise the fact that most of the scares here are pretty easy to see coming. A man walks up to an infected girl, offers his hand, and tells her it’s going to be all right. Guess what happens? A man turns his back to a door with big holes in it that an arm can fit through, with an infected man on the other side. Guess what happens to him? About half the characters (many of them trained cops or fire-fighters) seem unable to grasp the fact that turning your back to a creepy person covered in blood, for whatever reason, is probably a bad idea.
Rec does have its moments of terror, though it takes about an hour to get to them. All Rec’s true scares are reserved for its final minutes, in which it does achieve a truly oppressive atmosphere as the lights go out and we meet an infected person far more frightening than those that we’ve seen before.
It’s the atmosphere, the eerie green lighting and the cramped spaces, the feeling of entrapment and claustrophobia, that make the final minutes of Rec so nail-biting. All the screaming and running and roaring of infected in the world can’t match for fear a minute of strained silence, in which the only sound is the labored breathing of a couple of frightened people trapped in a room. And that is Rec’s biggest problem–it rarely lets itself breathe as a movie (pun intended). It’s too frenetic, too loud, too obvious. And blood-stained, howling hordes are nothing without a little atmosphere to back them up.
In all fairness, if I hadn’t known exactly how this movie was going to end, I might have gotten a lit more wrapped up in the proceedings. Unfortunately, the reason I knew exactly how REc would end is because someone decided to put the final shot of the movie in the trailer. Whoever thought that was a good marketing decision needs to be fired straightaway.
Try this trailer instead. IT doesn’t show much, but at least it’s not a spoiler.