Tuesday, October 14, 2008
MY GRANDMA IS MORE FEROCIOUS THAN MY DOG - AND SHE BITES HARDER, TOO
much more than feeling afraid during horror films, i love to feel tense. over time, i have found the films that exhaust me, that tie me up in knots and clench me tight enough to produce a diamond, far outweigh films that simply nauseate or creep me out. it's just a proven hamsterian fact. and for this reason, and this reason alone, i loved QUARANTINE.
allow me to digress in my review of QUARANTINE to discuss another film for a moment. the original ALIEN is one of my all-time favorite films, sitting right up there in my top ten. ALIEN is also in my top three favorite horror films, even though it is technically considered sci-fi. the thing i love most about ALIEN is the way it starts slowly, even innocently, and then suddenly thrusts into a maddening intensity that never lets up for a single second. even after dozens of ALIEN viewings, i still jump and squeal and clench up my butt cheeks something fiercely musical.
QUARANTINE reminded me of ALIEN in this regard. the tension both films create for their viewers stems from a constant, itching promise that something - who knows what - is lurking around the next corner, and it wants to destroy somebody. the actors know it's there; we know it's there; the music and the movement and the camera work let us know that it's there; nevertheless, nobody knows when it's coming or what it will look like or what it will do when it jumps onto the screen. this causes the characters to move slowly, to tiptoe and peek around each bend. likewise, it caused me to fetally curl up, grip my arm rest, and shield my eyes.
and that right there, my friends, is what i love in a good horror film.
QUARANTINE, in my opinion, can boast three cinematic glories:
one is the ALIEN-like intensity i've already mentioned.
a second is the story. also like ALIEN, the story here is simple. authorities lock a group of people, including a two person news team, in a residential building with zero information concerning the nature or duration of the lock-down. as the pieces begin to fall into place, we learn, along with the characters, that some ridiculously fast-spreading disease has exploded among the resident's of this apartment building, turning its victims into vicious, animalistic cannibals - sorta like romero's zombies on speed. i will not reveal the disease here, but i will say this: it's a totally boss and believable concept for a contagion plot. also like ALIEN, the tension of the film revolves around entrapment in small environments (a space ship and an apartment building) while being hunted by nearly indestructible predators (mommy alien and, well, mommy).
lastly, QUARANTINE's production is pure genius. shot entirely on handheld camera by a lead character, the film's narrative is told in first person and real time. THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT tried to do something similar a decade ago. more recently, george romero gave first person film narration a shot with his piss-poor 2008 release, DIARY OF THE DEAD. both films failed miserably at creating the remotest level of tension, let alone offering real scares to completely unconvinced audiences. this is where QUARANTINE trumps it's predecessors. whereas BLAIR WITCH only made me feel car sick in the theatre, QUARANTINE made me feel car sick and scared witless. whereas romero's DIARY melodramatically resembled mtv's the real world via to-the-camera confessionals, QUARANTINE remains relentlessly taut between brief, panicked journalistic updates and the coming onslaught of cannibalistic granny creatures. also, and i cannot for the life of me figure out how they did this, some camera shots in QUARANTINE go for at least ten minutes. i've rarely seen single camera shots last this long while containing this much constant, vicious action. absolutely brilliant.
so, for my overall verdict, i'm scoring QUARANTINE in two categories. i give the theatre experience of QUARANTINE 5 ferocious grannies out of 5. there is no way QUARANTINE could work half as effectively on dvd - even a really boss dvd system. this is must-must-must see in the theatre. however, i give QUARANTINE, as a film, 4 gnawed esophaguses out of 5. as much as i loved viewing the film in the theatre, i am not sure this is something i could return to repeatedly. QUARANTINE works better as a unique and refreshing cinematic experience than as a top shelf flick.
with that said, i'm considering seeing it again in the theatre. it's just that fun.