Theatrical Review: Quarantine

In New York City, a fluff news TV reporter and her cameraman are assigned the task of riding along with a group of firefighters for an evening. As things are looking to be a routine evening, an alarm goes off and the fire crew and the TV people head in, along with a couple of NYC police officers. They go to an apartment building, where a woman has been screaming like she’s being tortured to death. Once there, they discover that something horrifying has happened to the woman, something disgusting that sends her into a flying rage and makes her attack her would-be rescuers, and just as immediately, the building is closed off to everyone, with various law enforcement, military and the CDC on the case, and a night of brutal horror is set to begin…

That’s the premise of Quarantine which itself is a remake of a Spanish horror film called [REC], which unfortunately I’ve not seen, and it also looks to be the big break for a little known director by the name of John Erick Dowdle. And unfortunately, this looks to be a film that I can’t quite give the type of review for that I’d really like to hand out primarily because we saw it with the worst audience that I’ve seen a movie with since Hard Candy from a few years ago. The thing is, it actually seems like the kind of film that is my kind of horror film, and objectively, I can tell you that it is well made and lis quite effective with just one major complaint, and that complaint isn’t due to the film itself but rather it’s marketing.

But first, yeah, our audience was just horrendous for this- primarily mostly composed of late teenagers and know-it-all twentysomethings that were there more to entertain themselves than to see a movie and really just making this the worst movie-going experience that I’ve had in years, and it’s a shame because I do think this can be quite effective under the right circumstances, but so far those circumstances are calling for me to recommend this as something that you wait for on DVD rather than go out to the theatre to see. As I’ve said about audiences like this before, I can only hope there’s a special place in hell reserved just for them for being assholes. It really makes me yearn for the days when ushers would walk the theatre with flashlights, ready to boot out anyone making a disturbance.

Now with that out of the way, the film itself is made the same way as movies like The Blair Witch Project and Cloverfield all done from a handheld video camera operated by one of the cast. So if you’ve already got an aversion to these type of films, then straight up, this won’t be for you. I think this is pretty well told though, considering the circumstances I saw it under, with the camera work being a little more straightforward as the film starts and then getting extremely chaotic as things progress.

The cast is filled with lots of “those guys” who you see in other films as mostly support. It’s headed up by Jennifer Carpenter who was extremely effective in The Exorcism of Emily Rose playing this overly bubbly and annoying, but again I hope I’m being objective enough to say that my own perception could certainly be colored by the conditions I saw this under, and that whole perception might change later on. Other cast members include Steve Harris as her cameraman, Jay Hernandez and Johnathan Schaech as the firefighters she’s assigned to cover, and veteran character guys like Rade Serbedzija and Greg Germann as a couple of the residents of the apartment house. And really everyone does a fine job for this type of movie.

My biggest complaint though, other than that of the a-hole audience we saw it with, is the fact that the marketing of the film blows the final shot of the piece. That shot, and I won’t say what it is, is a key part of the trailer for the film and if you’ve seen it, then once it gets to that point, you’re just waiting for it to happen as opposed to letting it shock you the way it should. And it’s a real shame, because the climax is pretty good here, leading you to an area that I certainly didn’t consider as being the root cause of what has transpired through the film.

So here’s the deal- I certainly do recommend this, but really you just might want to wait until some time has passed and it comes out on DVD, doing that will most certainly let you see it under better conditions. Just wait for this to come home, and turn off all the lights as you watch it and hopefully the trailer won’t be too fresh in mind as everything plays out. And then… then, if you like this type of horror film as I do, then you’ll probably have a great time with this, but for now, avoid this like the plague in the theatre…

About Darren Goodhart

Darren Goodhart is a 44-year old St. Louis-based Graphic Designer and Illustrator (and former comic book artist) who's been seeing movies all his life, but on an almost weekly basis in theatres for the last 20 years and owns nearly 1,000 DVDs for his home theatre. He's learned a lot about film over the 20 year period, and has taken his appreciation beyond the mainstream. His favorite types of film are mostly genre entertainment, but he also enjoys a wide range of drama, action and cult-y stuff from around the world, and is currently re-discovering a love affair with lower budget exploitation and genre films from the 70s and early 80s. He doesn't try to just dismiss any film, but if there's a bias against one, he'll certainly tell you that in the space of his reviews.

11. October 2008 by Darren Goodhart
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