We all know that this Halloween will not look like other Halloweens from years past. And yet, the month of October waits for us all the same. It is about time we put the spirit of Halloween back into that abandoned department store that we call the year of 2020. So to celebrate, we at Full Circle Cinema put together a curated, month-long series called Screen Screams. This time, we will be covering all things zombies. For this review, we look at one of the most visceral found-footage fright-fests of all time: 2007’s Rec.
Buyer’s Beware: The only way to legally purchase Rec will net viewers a dubbed version of the film. This is the spookiest thing about the movie, as the voice acting is absolutely atrocious. If someone wants to see the subtitled version, they must purchase a secondhand copy off of eBay or Amazon.
It may seem strange when thinking about it, but there was a time when found footage horror movies felt genuinely unique. By limiting the audience’s perspective to the camera’s point of view, a found footage film can make the story feel more immersive and authentic to reality. Naturally, due to found footage films possessing these two qualities, the horror genre is a perfect complement to this gimmick.
Rec, as far as found-footage horror films go, is arguably more influential than The Blair Witch Project. Although The Blair Witch Project was a trailblazer and, in many ways, the first of its kind, Rec nearly perfects the formula that that film established. It’s lean, chaotic, and extremely intense. For people who disliked the found footage genre’s initial offerings, this movie was the perfect antidote.
The film follows a reporter named Angela (a bubbly, emphatic Manuela Velasco) and her cameraman Pablo (Pablo Rosso) as they begin filming a story about the daily struggles of firefighters. After meeting a local squad of firemen, a call comes in that requires urgent attention. What was supposed to be a routine call quickly spirals out of control, placing Angela and Pablo directly in the epicenter of a mysterious, deadly, highly contagious disease.
Rec‘s plot is straightforward and familiar to anyone who has seen a zombie film before. However, Rec separates itself from the pack through its presentation. As a small news team, it makes perfect sense for a camera to show the events that unfold. At no point during the film does it ever feel inauthentic. Great effort and care were put into screen tearing effects, and the microphone getting accidentally bumped into creates accurate feedback. Rec especially benefits from the cast and crew’s full commitment and confidence.
The majority of the performances are believable and the characters, although fairly standard, are enjoyable. There isn’t much nuance to them, but the cast manages to make their stereotypes shine. Even the tenants that only get a few moments to flex their acting chops. In particular, the mother (Maria Lanau) and Cesar (Carlos Lasarte) steal the screen with their presence and do an admirable job.
However, although Angela starts off as incredibly likable, her hysteric flailing and panicked shouting grow tiresome very quickly. It boggles my mind that none of these people, even for a single moment, considered sneaking around the infected tenants. Instead, they constantly run, scream, and produce the loudest exhales that human lungs can muster. For a film whose greatest quality is its immersion, this is a huge detriment to the overall experience.
Additionally, the ending sequence is one of the weakest points in the entire film. Obviously, I won’t include any spoilers, but the “twist” is rote and the design for a particular creature is extremely goofy. Nevertheless, although the film doesn’t stick the landing, the path the audience travels to get there is riveting.
As far as found-footage horror movies go, Rec is one of the best ones you can choose during this spooky season. It has likable characters, immersive technical qualities, and plenty of great gore and high tension. So buckle up, say a couple of prayers, and make sure you film everything.
Rec is available on Blu-ray and Digital HD.