You know the drill by now. Hollywood buys the rights to a viscerally terrifying foreign horror flick then bowdlerises the life out of it. So it’s pleasing to report that Quarantine, a redux of Jaume Balagueró and Paco Plaza’s Spanish shocker [REC], is actually rather good – although, frankly, it would have taken a special kind of idiot to screw this one up.
The set-up remains more or less the same. Perky television reporter Angie (Dexter’s Jennifer Carpenter) and her cameraman Scott (Steve Harris) are following a late-night fire crew around for a TV show, tagging along with Jake (Jay Hernandez) and Fletcher (John Schaech) to a routine call-out regarding an old lady trapped inside an LA apartment.
The police are already at the scene, the building’s other residents have gathered in the lobby and, upstairs, the old woman’s covered in blood and clearly rabid. When she takes a chunk out of a copper’s neck, all hell breaks loose in a Blair Witch-with-fireup- its-arse kind of way, as both living and living dead are trapped inside the quarantined building and a terrified Angie implores Scott to “film everything”, plunging the viewer directly into the chaos.
By choosing not to tamper with the simple but effective template laid down by the original, director Dowdle has already won half the battle. There are changes, sure, but they’re mostly minor. Some are even welcome: the characters are marginally more defined, the actors more recognisable, the running time extended; we even see the cameraman’s face this time around, albeit briefly.
Despite tweaking the format, Quarantine successfully replicates the claustrophobic tension of [REC] and cranks up the sudden eruptions of frenzied violence, making it as much of a white-knuckle terror ride as it was the first time around.