Sunday, October 11, 2009

Quarantine: 4/5

Tonight, The Missus and I watched our third movie of the weekend, Quarantine.  Shot in the style of The Blair Witch Project and Cloverfield, Quarantine tells the tale of a late-night reporter (Jennifer Carpenter of Emily Rose fame) and her cameraman as they shadow Los Angeles firefighters one night.  The firefighters answer a call at an apartment building where, it turns out, there is some kinda crazy version of rabies going around.  The apartment complex is quarantined off, and the scares begin.

First, let me say that I liked the premise of this movie.  I've said before, and I'll say again, that I'm not a big fan of you'll-be-scared-after-you-think-about-it horror.  I think the scariest premises are those that scare you now and scare you later.  Here, we have some crazy mutation of rabies running amok in an apartment building.  This is scary now because we've got these crazy rabid killers trying to get at our heroine.  It's scary later because we live in a time when genetic research on diseases just might be creating crazy strains of rabies and we don't even know it.  Plus, the film gets the nightmare bonus for some pretty stick-with-you visuals.  That said, the film does rely a lot on jumpy scares.  Still, three points for the premise.

Second, I liked the characters in this movie.  I liked Angela Vidal (Carpenter's character---really, I'm becoming a Jennifer Carpenter fan); I liked the cameraman, I liked Firefighter Jay, and the cop we got to know.  I even liked the landlord, the British opera teacher, and the vet.  I think the actors did a great job of bringing these characters to life and making them someone I cared about.  Each time someone died, I felt sad.  That, I think, might be the key to good horror, making the audience care when something horrible happens.  So five points for characters I liked.

Third, I'm not the biggest fan of realistic-style, first-person camera work.  Maybe it's your thing, maybe it added to the realism (which all horror needs to some extent), maybe it even added to the horror.  But I started the movie with a headache, and the shaky camera only added to my queasiness.  That said, the fact that we could only see what the camera picked up made the last fifteen minutes or so ten times scarier than it could have been.  So, break even points for camera work.

Finally, I love that this film is only 89 minutes long and that it tells a story 89 minutes long.  I hate bloat.  Every scene should either (a) advance the plot or (b) develop the characters meaningfully, and each scene should only last as long as necessary to do either of those.  Maybe that's demanding, but I don't care.  I don't have time to waste watching your self-indulgence.

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