Forget social relevance, subtext or thematic sophistication. Horror is the cinema of moments, of a thousand tiny nows, of heart over head, bladder over brains. Who cares why The Shining’s Overlook Hotel is haunted, when it’s Jack Nicholson’s door-splitting leer that sticks in the mind? Ditto Ringu’s Sadako, an unspeakable spectre unleashing Armageddon because she’s angry at being chucked down a well.
On this basis, Jaume Balagueró and Paco Plaza’s Iberian chiller is brutally effective; an hour of plausible, if faintly plodding, build-up crowned by the Holy Mary Mother Of God of all climaxes. Following the Barcelona fire department on a routine call-out, intrepid reporter Manuela Velasco and her cameraman find themselves quarantined in a virus-stricken apartment block. Clearly, there’s nothing to do but keep shooting their shaky TV footage. Until the dead begin to wake, that is, and it’s time to start shooting their pants…
If there’s an air of inevitability, rather than predictability, about [REC], it’s because we realise we’re in zombie territory far quicker than the characters do. When they wise up and start exploring the building’s spooky upper reaches, however, it’s not so much a case of ‘Don’t Look In The Basement’ as ‘Don’t For Heaven’s Sake Go Near The Attic!’
If your heart’s not in your mouth throughout the pulverising final 15 minutes – without doubt one of the most petrifying sequences of the decade – the chances are it’s already stopped.