[REC] 4: Apocalypse (2014)
★ / ★★★★
Having been rescued from a high-rise apartment complex, Ángela (Manuela Velasco) finds herself on a ship with scientists who are trying understand the highly infectious disease that drove the apartment residents into a killing spree. Key to that understanding is having an animal model. Monkeys are placed in cages, but it is only a matter of time under one infected primate escapes and bites a human being.
“[REC] 4: Apocalypse,” written by Jaume Balagueró and Manu Díez, is a standard, gory horror picture with nothing new to show or say about the genre, zombies, or science once again going wrong. The last section of the film involves a timer counting down before a bomb goes off. It is the longest twenty minutes; I wished all of the characters would get stuck on that ship prior to the inevitable explosion because it would mean that the movie was finally over. Of course, the lead character must survive for a possibility of a sequel.
The writers and filmmakers show no understanding of how to make an effective horror film. They have this wonderful environment—a sizable ship surrounded by endless ocean—and most of what is shown is desperate, sweaty-looking characters running around and shooting guns. Once in a while they manage to grab another weapon but the novelty wears off quickly because these scenes rely only on blood and not an active attempt in building suspense or intrigue.
The editing is manic, almost nonsensical, and so we never get a chance to appreciate scenes that should have been memorable. It rests on showing an enclosed space and fitting as many bodies as possible within that space. It is supposed to provide a claustrophobic atmosphere but it does not work because far too many cuts are made before we realize that escape is nearly impossible. Far too many directors confuse rapid editing or quick cuts for creating a sense of urgency. This is most common in bottom-of-the-barrel action and horror films.
Ángela is neither written nor portrayed as a compelling character. She is a survivor but not once do get to feel her inner strength and drive to want to keep living. Velasco plays the character flat and passive at times. Ángela is the only woman on that ship and yet she is almost treated as an afterthought. Why bring back a character when there is no point in showing her again? We learn nothing about her past, who she is, and what her plans are for the future. She is on the screen only because she survived the first movie. I found that depressing.
Directed by Jaume Balagueró, “[REC] 4: Apocalipsis” highlights the exhaustion of the series. It insults the viewers by assuming that watching characters run around is entertainment and that showing blood is special. The filmmakers responsible for creating this dung could learn a thing or two from the master of blood and story David Cronenberg.
Home Movie (2008)
★★ / ★★★★
After moving their family to house in the middle of the woods, a minister (Adrian Pasdar) and a psychiatrist (Cady McClain) eventually realized that their children (Amber Joy Williams, Austin Williams) began acting strange. At first the children killed their pet fish and put it in a sandwich. Then they put a frog in a vise grip. And then they cruxified the house cat. The events after that became so horrific, I could hardly look at the screen. The children didn’t even speak a word until more than half-way through the movie. When they did, they did so in codes. Written and directed by Christopher Denham, “Home Movie” used the hand-held technique of “The Blair Witch Project” and “[REC].” Unfortunately, it wasn’t as effective because the execution was weak; it felt confused when it should have been confident given its daring material. I thought the picture spent too much of its time focusing on Pasdar acting goofy and putting on ridiculous costumes. The parts I enjoyed most were when Pasdar used his faith to find answers regarding what was happening with his children. The same goes for McClain–the scenes when she used her psychology background were interesting to me because I had some idea about was she was talking about and the influential names she cited (although that Rorschach test begged the question of validity and reliability). The film would have been so much stronger if it had focused on their varying parenting methods and ways to get some answers regarding their children’s condition. I didn’t mind much of the “realistic,” low quality and shaky feel of the camera because I understood what the director was trying to achieve. It’s the writing and the way that the story unfolded were the problems for me. Even though I don’t like watching movies about children hurting and killing others, I have to commend this independent film for trying to do something different. Admittedly, I was really disturbed by some of the scenes but I was glad that the filmmakers cut certain images and reactions out. If one is interested in watching something very creepy, sometimes disturbing and not mainstream by any means, “Home Movie” might be enjoyable. I must also note that this film is not for people who like movies with defined closures.
★★★ / ★★★★
Having seen and being impressed with the remake called “Quarantine,” I just had to see the original. I think both are very effective even though they pretty much had the same scenes. In “[REC],” astutely directed by Jaume Balagueró and Paco Plaza, it had less exposition but the audiences quickly cared about the reporter (Manuela Velasco) and her cameraman. The reporter had a certain spunk and enthusiasm and what the cameraman saw, we saw so there was an automatic connection there. Everything starts off pretty light as the reporter interviewed the firemen about their every day happenings. Things quickly went for a darker turn when the firefighters got a call from an old apartment complex. At first, they thought it was just an old woman that fell and needed help. But when she started attacking and biting people, everyone pretty much knew that something more sinister was going on. People started dying in gruesome ways in the hands of zombie-like infected people and they get quarantined by city officials without an ounce of explanation. What I love about this film was its natural ability to build tension after each scene. There were moments when I thought that if I was stuck in the building with them, the exact same thing could happen so I was definitely more than engaged. “The Blair Witch Project” was undoubtedly this picture’s biggest inspiration but it managed to tilt just enough to have an identity of its own. The best part of the movie for me was the last fifteen to twenty minutes when they finally made it inside the apartment on the top floor. Such scenes revealed to us that it had more to it than “28 Days Later”-like zombies. The disease had a history and I wanted to know more about it. (Maybe a sequel?) But, of course, the scares did not end there. I felt like I was in that dark room with them as they tried to use the night vision option on the camera. I tried not to blink because I was expecting those “shock”/”jumpy” moments. But even then I was surprised and things popped out of nowhere. If one is a horror film fan, this is a must-see. However, this is definitely not for those who dislike shaky cameras in order to add some type of realism to its craft.