I say it time and time again. Finding a new angle to take on the zombie genre is always a positive thing. Finding that new angle and providing an engaging narrative at the same time is even better. That (REC) succeeds despite being a first person, “found footage” piece is to its credit. I’m not much of a fan of that genre, but here it didn’t annoy me in the slightest. In fact, it’s a very clever piece of cinema.
(REC) opens with news reporter Angela Vidal (Manuela Velasco) preparing a piece to camera about the local fire station. It’s not very interesting stuff and intended for broadcast in the middle of the night. Clearly, there is room for her career to expand from here.
Then, some action. After a callout to a block of flats where a resident is apparently trapped in her home, the building is sealed off by the authorities. The reason? A zombie-like threat that could mean the death of all inside.
The found footage approach does work well in this context. Rather than apply a film-like filter the footage is presented everything is presented in its raw, unprocessed look. It’s the same appearance as if you were using your phone or camcorder. A minor point, but a clever one.
Then there are the more obvious moments of tension and surprise, built up steadily over the course of the short run time. We as the audience are as trapped as those are inside the building, watching everything through the camera. An almost thankless task from Pablo Rosso’s ingeniously named cameraman, Pablo.
We can’t see what’s happening behind it, relying on the person holding it to see what’s happening. When you’re faced with a building of rampaging zombie-like infected, it’s a perfect opportunity to shock and surprise everyone involved – including the actors.
In some cases the cast were, apparently, unaware of some of the jump scares that were coming. Intended to create a more genuine reaction to the peril, it works. Aside from the zombie infection thing (because zombies aren’t real, right folks?), there is a sense that this could be something that actually happened. Featuring actors who are, at the very least, not that well known outside of Spain is a positive factor.
(REC) doesn’t do much to support the advance of gender politics in cinema. Angela may very well be the main character, but she spends most of her time screaming and not helping the situation. Admittedly she does start to come into her own as events progress, but she remains a resolutely scared young woman throughout. Understandable perhaps, but it’s hardly progressive.
With that said, (REC) does copy the plot of most zombie films, where most of the people there are hysterical. The only significant departure is that it inverts the formula. Rather than the dead being piled up outside trying to get in, they’re already inside. And er, probably not actually dead.
Still, it gets away with a lot despite its meagre budget and zombie plot cliches. The sound design is excellent, enhancing the sense of dread that anyone in their right mind would feel if placed in the same situation.
Where it succeeds in breaking away from the pack is in its gore and its element of surprise. Characters are bumped off in unexpected ways and there are effective jump scares littered throughout. It might not cover too much new ground, but it packs a punch regardless.
Find out more about the movie here: