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Quarantine Has Twenty Good Minutes, So Is It Worth It?

Directed by John Erick Dowdle
Written by Dowdle and Drew Dowdle from the 2007 movie Rec by Jaume Balaguero, Luis Berdejo, and Paco Plaza
Sony, 2008

Earlier this year, we had Cloverfield, still one of my favorite movies this year, turning a monster movie into a YouTube-ish did-you-see-that? spectacle.  Cloverfield borrowed the idea of shaky video-cam footage from The Blair Witch Project, which actually took 9 years to be copied, a strange phenomenon considering its success.  Perhaps the studios realized that for all the money it made, it still was a hard sell considering the lack of slickness or movie stars.  The two things Cloverfield and The Blair Witch Project have in common that the new kid on the block, Quarantine, does not share is that it is not a “normal person behind the camera,” it’s a “professional.”  In other words, this is the first time that someone holding the camera during such awful stuff, in lieu of running and just trying to survive, “makes sense,” whereas the Average Joes running around capturing stuff became somewhat of a liability.

Yet, both of those movies are superior to Quarantine, which begins almost exactly like Cloverfield by introducing us to characters who go through their yawn-inducing routines, just an average normal day.  Our focus is on reporter Angela Vidal (the non-glam but pretty Jennifer Carpenter, who I want to drink a beer with), who is working some show I suppose is called, “The Night Shift,” and in this episode she is following around firefighters.  The two she will follow are the sensitive and strong Jake (Jay Hernandez) and the caddish George (Johnathon Schaech).  Nothing happens for awhile, and then the inevitable call comes in.

It’s an apartment where a woman has been heard screaming bloody murder.  The cops have come, and the tenants, all played by vaguely recognizable people like Ally McBeal’s Greg Germann, who plays veterinarian Lawrence, character actor Columbus Short (Studio 60 from the Sunset Strip) the cop that lives (for awhile), usual “Russian Guy” Rade Serbedzija, the landlord, and Heroes‘ Dania Ramirez, who plays hottie Sadie.  Of course the old woman is afflicted with one of those diseases where you want to bite people and infect them, and the firefighters and cops’ lack of discretion leads to some feasting.

And there will be no running out.  The government has decided that the apartment is a BNC (biological, nuclear, or chemical) scare and they’ve secured the doors and windows, and they’re ready to shoot whoever finds any opening to the outside whatsoever.  For awhile, even though the movie offers a couple of shocks here and there, I actually found this movie kind of boring.  I was really very much, “So what?” about this whole thing.  I mean, at the very least, Quarantine passes one of my horror rules: Thou shalt not be slick.  Slickness in horror movies does not mix.  But neither does abject boredom.

However, things turn 180 degrees towards the end.  It’s fast, violent, and revelatory towards the end, a combo of Silence of the Lambs and Blair Witch.  So maybe you buy a ticket to Beverly Hills Chihuahua and then sneak into this with 20 minutes to go or something.  You know what’s happening already, so no need for plot formalities.  Could be worth the rental down the road.

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