In [Rec] we follow the story of a reporter, Angela (Manuela Velasco), who is a young and ambitious reporter looking for her big break. Unfortunately, all she gets are humdrum assignments, being on the reality television series "While You're Sleeping". At the start of the movie, she enthusiastically heads to the local firehouse hoping to chance upon something interesting. And by interesting we mean trapped in a scary building with a mysterious and malevolent entity.
How it All Starts
Our intrepid reporter finally gets her chance when the alarm bell rings and the firemen rush to respond to the emergency call. The call came from Mrs. Izquierdo (Martha Carbonell), an old woman who has become trapped in her apartment. When Angela and her cameraman accompany a pair of firefighters to the building, they are joined by police officers. Everything seemed like a routine call up until they break down the door and the old woman bites one of the officers. The next thing they know, the building is sealed off and quarantined by the military. Nerves are on an all-time high and the tenants begin to panic. Angela holds interviews with the residents and Pablo keeps the tape rolling to ensure that whatever happens to them, the world will know the truth.
These Folks Look Genuinely Scared
What made the movie so compelling is the raw quality to its acting. The actors were not given the entire script to work with so no one knew of the fates of their characters. Some only found out on the day of the actual filming, which meant that they were nervous and feeling quite anxious -- adding to the realism of the final product. The scenes were filmed in a chronological order in order not to spoil the big surprise. Also, they went for real locations instead of sets for the same effect.
Balaguero and Plaza deliberately chose a cast consisting of relative unknowns who were talented at improvisation. The tension is palpable and the reactions are genuine. Seeing every hair-raising detail is both a good and a bad thing as there was more than one occasion where the camera kept rolling long after Pablo -- or anyone who's sane -- should have run for cover.
What You Get with a Great Director
Unlike other foot-shufflers whose claim to fame lies in their fascinatingly meaty makeup, the movie's zombies aren't depicted with as much rot and decay. While they are less gruesome in that sense, we did find them more horrifying. The visuals hit something that is close to home exactly because of the restraint the effects team exhibited. The nasties are also placed in a situation that is plausible, heightening the effect the film has to a paranoid mind.
[Rec] is somewhat of an enigma. While the premise isn't really something we haven't seen before, it does add its own spin to the found footage genre. The directors have taken care to draw out real emotions for the actors, which made the acting believable. However, that's not to say that the characters couldn't have been written better. The way the story is laid out, the supporting cast seems flat and plain uninteresting.
As for the actual zombies, well what more can we say? They're less gimmicky than their rotting cousins, plus, you get to see them up close and personal through Pablo's lens. The scene framing will leave you feeling claustrophobic -- in a good way. At least, if you prefer this style over the traditional ones used for the garden variety Hollywood slasher. The film obviously doesn't have the budget of a big Hollywood production but that doesn't stop it from making our heart pound in anticipation.
Do Not Miss Out On This One
Our recommendation? Watch [Rec] if you're looking for something that elevates the genre. It's about what could happen in the event of a breakout in an apartment building. It's about the kind of evil that's trapped in the same, plastic-sealed space in a quarantine zone. It's about regular people in regular places and it's frightening because it's elements are not so absurd that it could happen to you. This is as real as it gets until an actual zombie apocalypse comes along, just don't expect any hand-holding or a clichéd happily ever after.