"I take orders from the Octoboss."


tn_recWell, say hello to the bad guy. The wet blanket, the party pooper, parade pisser, Gloomy Gus, Whiny Waldorf, Joyless Jim, Bum-out Benjamin. I’m talking about me here, the guy who achieved the dubious record of “First Person Not To Like [REC] Very Much.” Sorry guys. Didn’t think it would be me, so I didn’t prepare a speech.

If you’re not familiar with it, [REC] is the ’07 Spanish horror picture already remade in the U.S. as QUARANTINE. It’s a fakumentary/found footage one like BLAIR WITCH, CLOVERFIELD, THE OFFICE, etc. The premise is that a TV hostess and her cameraman are doing a story on firefighters when they respond to a building where a deadly 28 DAYS LATER type infection (zombies except in name) breaks out. They get trapped in the building and document the mayhem because the people have a right to know or whatever.

mp_recIt must’ve been inspired by that documentary crew that happened to be following some of the firefighters responding to the World Trade Center on 9-11. But I’m kind of glad that the protagonist just does some fluff show instead of us having to watch a serious journalist or documentarian being preachy. Her show is “While You Were Asleep,” so she’s showing what these firefighters do at night. For the American remake they should’ve had it star Dave Attell.

It’s all well executed. Acting is good, feels pretty real, horror shit escalates, cool looking thing at the end. So I’m not arguing against it. I guess this approach just doesn’t work on me anymore, so let’s try to figure out why.

After so many of these fake video movies you start to see that there’s a formula, or at least the gimmick of pretending it’s a real video forces it into a formula because you feel you have to explain the same things every time. You have the opening where you explain why they’re originally filming (documentary about urban legend, student horror film, video for friend who’s leaving) and everything is normal, they do non-horror shit for a while (interview locals, put on mummy costumes, hang out at a party) but the the shit hits the fan (weird sounds and objects left at camp site, Statue of Liberty decapitated, zombie apocalypse). Then they have to explain why they’re still filming (“Someone has to know what happened here!”). Usually somebody (annoyed friend, pushy soldier) tries to get them to turn off the camera, so they say that it’s off but it’s still on, heh heh, sneaky. At some point the camera does stop or mess up (end of tape, battery dead, accidentally bumped button) so the story can skip over some time. Toward the end they learn more information about what’s going on (in this one it’s that old classic The Wall of Newspaper Clippings) and then they come face to face with the big danger and the tape ends before you find out what happened. Spoooooooky.

Just once let’s see one where everything is resolved on camera. “As you can see we killed all the zombies. Tune in next week when we’ll visit a bottling plant!”

Of course, I’m not against formula in horror, in fact I recently reviewed a slasher movie that I said could’ve benefited from being more formulaic. But I think there’s a difference between slasher formula and this. In a good slasher it’s a nice smooth vehicle to carry you along. Sometimes you can forget it, but it’s in your subconscious so when the movie deviates from the usual path it’s a nice surprise, it tricked you. With a fakumentary I can’t stop thinking about the mechanics. Like when a little girl plays with the camera I know it’s a way to include a conversation they wouldn’t have intentionally recorded. The little girl wouldn’t play with the camera in a normal movie, because it’s a scene put in only to justify the existence of another scene. In a non-fakumentary you don’t think about the cameras, you subliminally accept them as your eyes or your window into this world. With a fakumentary the formula is not just the story structure but also the excuse for the camerawork, a constant reminder that it’s all fake.

I also have a problem that I’m constantly distracted by the realism, judging would she really say it like that, would he really do that with the camera there, would he really care about filming at this point, etc. It’s supposed to make it feel more realistic but to me it can have the opposite effect because I can accept more stylization if it’s not pretending to be real footage. [REC] does fairly good on that score (way better than DIARY OF THE DEAD, that’s for sure) but it’s still a drawback to this type of storytelling for me.

Instead of reality it ends up feeling like some kind of a performance, like “hey, check out this Youtube video where they set up all this stuff to happen in one shot.” Clever, well done, but for me (and apparently only me) it’s distracting and I just don’t find it scary anymore. The novelty has worn off. You gotta put a bigger gimmick in there to make it wortwhile, like CLOVERFIELD was a Godzilla type movie done in that style, I can get with that. DISTRICT 9 was a very original story that could’ve worked without that presentation but also used it to make some satirical points about the media and racism. This one doesn’t seem new enough to me. Just more zombies or demons.

That’s another thing, I don’t really understand or buy this zombie virus/demonic possession combo. I guess I was no longer mentally invested enough to really pay attention by the time they got to all the explanatory newspaper clippings. It kind of seems like one of those video games or viral promotions where you gotta piece together a bunch of clues to figure out the backstory. I guess it’s pretty cool to do it that way, if I really gave a shit what was happening by that point I would’ve expended the effort to understand it.

The thing is, if it was the same story told in the traditional way I don’t think I would want to watch it, and since my interest in the method of storytelling has worn off there’s nothing left. I’m not against gimmicks, but this gimmick is not enough for me.

The thing at the end looked cool though.

Sorry everybody. Didn’t mean to let you down.

This entry was posted on Monday, October 19th, 2009 at 8:16 pm and is filed under Horror, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

140 Responses to “[REC]”

  1. Perhaps you shouldn’t see Paranormal Activity after all. At least I knew going into PA that the great marketing campaign for the film would cause backlash despite the fact that this is the first “found footage” film in history that’s actually scary. Can somebody explain to me what in Blair Witch was supposed to be scary?

  2. Wow, man. Wow.

    Shuffles sadly away, sniffling.

  3. Yeah, I wasn’t that into it either. For me, I think it was because I had seen Quarantine first and they ended up really similar. Also, Quarantine was able to justify the whole fakumentary style by bashing a zombie’s head in with the camera. I believe that is a fair justification for the style. I still think it would be interesting to read Vern’s thoughts on Paranormal Activity, even if he’s tired of the found footage style.

  4. Off to my room and cry like a bitch. You broke my heart, Vern.

  5. Goddamn, Vern. Now I know how that bear felt when he found out Scotty was working undercover.

  6. I meant to ask in the review – what do you think it is about this movie that makes so many consider it the best horror movie of (the year, the decade, the history of the world, whatever)? And if I’m wrong about it, why? Also, how can I make it up to everybody?

  7. Hey Vern, don’t sweat it. I never even SAW *rec. So my heart is not broken. And I hear you on the points about the fakumentary format. A gimmick alone does not a movie make. Unless that movie is Blair Witch. It gets a pass for being the first. (Or at least the one that really codified the format)

  8. I’m not the biggest fan of this style of filming , I’m not against it , but sometimes it pisses me off , just like the shaky-cam in action movies ( basically the same thing , for me , but I’m not an expert ) . I just want to know what is going on , and this style is not really the best way to show the action . I don’t hate it like quick cuts in Bay/Scott movies , that’s just a stupid decision of the director to make the action more energetic , at least with a fake documentary you’re supposed to shoot it like that . But I can’t shake the feeling that , in Cloverfield , for example, I wanted to follow the soldiers fighting the monsters , not the collection of victims in front of me . And that wasn’t even that difficult to do : have some cameras on the soldiers helmets . Like in Aliens , but in this case there’s no need to explain why they’re shooting , you always follow the action and you can keep an eye to all the unit fighting the monster . But no, the old documentary feel ……

    Also , Vern , I remember that you liked some things about Diary of the Dead , and I liked it ( not even close to all the Romero zombie movies before it , but enjoyable , easier to follow than most fake documentaries and with a real ending , not just the end of the tape) , so which one is better ?

  9. Also , I’ve seen Quarantine , not [REC] , and I didn’t see any demons , only “rabid zombies” , so it’s even less original than the film it’s remaking . And the characters are 2D stereotypes over and over , at least in Diary of the Dead there’s Samuel : one hell of an introduction , and one hell of a way to go out in style .

  10. Ya Vern, don’t bother with Paranormal Activity, it’s like a less scary/intense version of this movie.
    I’m one of the people that thinks this is one of the best horror movies I’ve seen in a while, and the reason is simple, it scared me a lot.
    Movies usually never scare me, so when one works as well as this, I’m very impressed, and the whole last 20 minutes of this movie, I was visibly shaken.
    I would say as far as found footage goes, I would put this below Cloverfield and above Paranormal Activity. I think Cloverfield, while not as scary, maintains a strong intensity all the way through, where as Rec kind of only really takes off closer to the end. Paranormal Activity really fails in this department in my opinion, because it keeps switching from scary night scenes to more relaxed/light-hearted day scenes, so it never gets a chance to build up any intensity like that.

  11. Lawrence, here I am, coming to you as a fan of The Blair Witch Project.
    I’ve come to loathe the mockumentary over time because, let’s face it, it’s gotten played out. It’s suffered from a lot of over-exposure over the past decade or so. It’s the cinematic equivalent of a Rick Ross song with a Chipmunk soul sample and Akon singing the hook in autotune. Also, DJ Khaled is probably in there somewhere too. But ten years ago, what was there? A new Christopher Guest flick every three or four years? So, The Blair Witch Project was a pretty big thing for it’s time. Admittedly, I only saw it last year, but saw Cloverfield a few months later, and then District 9, and then I was sick of it. So yeah, this shit gets old fast.
    What I like about Blair Witch Project is it’s reliance on sound to carry the story. I don’t know about you, but I have an imagination. The bumps and shrieks and shit is definitely some haunted house stuff, so it’s a movie you gotta allow yourself to get sucked into to. The actor’s performances seem incredibly genuine to me. I know a lot of people’ve complained about them all being a bunch of idiot, unlikable douches with no common sense, but that’s what film school’s all about. The Blair Witch Project is a hypnotic movie. If you don’t want to believe it, it’s not gonna happen. Would it be as scary the second time? Probably not, but I’m young and I’ve still got too many movies to watch to revisit it anytime soon.

  12. Okay, now that I’ve got a grip on myself…

    See, I actually agree in principle. I’m sick of this shit (Cloverfield was unwatchable) and not just in horror, either. Mockumentaries have outlived their welcome, period. Every time I see one, I say, “Okay, this is it. Maybe this one worked, but no more.” And then along comes Paranormal Activity and everyone raves and now I have to check it out. But AFTER that one…

    I digress. When a film works, it works. Texas Chain Saw wasn’t the first cheapo “maniacs chasing people” film, even in ’75 — but it transcended the genre. Same with Halloween. But they got it right, they worked, and you know it when you see it.

    But you didn’t see it (lower lip quivers.) It doesn’t make you a bad person. I mean, not necessarily.

    Hang on a sec, got something in my eye. Need to blow my nose.

    Okay, yeah, all the gimmicks are there. The “keep filming,” the night vision (though this may have been made before 28 Weeks Later and The Descent) and all the other assorted contrivances. But, again, when the movie hits you in that special place, you’re more forgiving. It’s not like you can’t appreciate your girlfriend’s mouth on your sensitive areas simply because you’ve had that done to you before. If you’re watching a slasher, you know the phone won’t work and the car won’t start and everyone will split up and wander off into the dark and drop the weapon as soon as the killer appears to be dead, right?

    I think the film builds beautifully, and then just gets more and more fucked up and hopeless until you feel the desperation as if you’re there. And there are hair-raising images worked seamlessly into the mockumentary format, like that shot of them all looking up the stairwell and screaming. Man, I loved that part.

    The possession/virus thing was confusing, I admit. I had to watch it twice and then read about it online. (Fortunately we have these resources in the modern world.) It was an attempt to be different that didn’t quite cut it. But this is a Spanish horror film, and if they start having to make sense the Italians will, too, and then where will we be? Yeah, that’s right.

    Maybe watch it again some day, that’s all I can say. As for making it up, you can have a bake sale for the March of Dimes and wear one of those shirts with the goat hair on the inside for a week or so. (I know a guy who’s a part-time monk who’ll lend you his, you just have to pay for the dry-cleaning.) Then we’ll be cool.

    Oh, and quit being a quote-whore. I’m still reeling from that.

  13. i haven’t seen this yet, but i have i a screener dvd so i will check it out at some point for sure. wanted to say great review as always vern.

    i’m not too crazy about the notumentary genre. i think it has the potential to work if it is pulled off flawlessly; i.e. if it is totally believable and they people seem and act like real people. unfortunately, this is almost never the case. i think “blair witch” comes closest. at first the people seem sort of fake, but once they get lost in the woods, i found them to be really authentic. and i agree with the above poster who said that one of it’s strengths was how it used sound to play with your imagination. i thought it was creepy. unfortunately all the shaky video camerawork gave me a headache. “cloverfield” i pretty much couldn’t stand. i like the idea of it, but the acting was terrible, not realistic, and the characters themselves, as written, were annoying douchebags that i would never want to even have a brief conversation with in real life. the end credits giant monster orchestral piece by michael giacchino was great though.

    and in non-horror, i think the BBC “the office” does a really good job of keeping the editing and camerawork in line with how it would actually be in a real documentary tv series, without breaking any rules (unlike the US version), and at times it seems really authentic, but a lot of times there are too many jokes/gags. i mean to many to maintain the documentary aspect, but i still love it. it’s my favorite sitcom of all time.

    i just watched the original “halloween” last night for the first time in a looooong time, and i was suprised at how effective it still is. we all know how great it is, but i only mean surprised because it has been emulated and ripped off so many times and set so many of the standards for the genre that have now become cliche, but even after 30 years it still works. i thought it would come off as slightly cheesy or quaint (and to be fair, in some parts it does), but i was surprised that it still actually creeped me out. and i don’t really get scared by (non-david lynch) movies either. the visual look of michael myers is just unpleasant, a great (sort of accidental) design. and of course the masterful camerawork and iconic score.

    but it’s not like i am saying anything new here to you guys.

    not sure why i bothered…

    p.s. the japanese title for [rec] is the same as the english title, so i guess i’m no use there, either… sigh…

  14. I saw REC very recently and dug it quite a bit, although I don’t begrudge others the right to not dig it likewise. (?) Vern, don’t sweat it if this movie didn’t work for you. Either you agree to the terms and conditions of the fake-horror-doc or you don’t. And if you don’t, which appears to be the case, then don’t waste your time from here on out because in my opinion REC is about as good as this particular subgenre is ever gonna get.

    For me personally though, that last ten minutes is damn near the closest thing I’ve ever seen to one of my own nightmares shown on film, which is why I liked it. As for the question of why people say this is the best horror film of the last whatever, well, what’s the competition? SAW VI? Rob Zombie’s Halloween? Even if you don’t care for the contrivances of the format, REC is still better than most.

  15. I’m pretty much on your side Vern (although in the end I seemed to enjoy it a little bit more than you) I had problems with its documentary style too. Mostly because everything was so staged, that it could have been done as a “normal” movie too. There was just no reason for it to go the mockumentary way. Cloverfield had at least the juxtaposition of the gigantic Hollywood special effect monster movie and the intimacy of a home video.

  16. And one thing about the possession/virus thing: I loved that nothing was really explained in it. That was pretty much the only justification for the mockumentary style: To introduce this stuff like it would happen in real life – without any real explaination. In movies everything has to be explained somehow, while in real life the shit hits the fan and you got 99% of the time no idea what just happened and why. It’s one of my most hated rules of film making: Find a way to explain it to the audience, even if it means that a professor suddenly shows up and gives a 10 minute long speech. But in [rec] the audience always knows as much as the people in the movie. And that means that in the end they know just enough to guess what the fuck just happened.

  17. I’m not a huge fan of the style per se, some of them work for me (Cloverfield especially), some don’t (Diary of the Dead). Rec I am yet to see. In my opinion some people might be forgetting the notion of suspension of disbelief. OK sure, some of these films present themselves as documentaries or found footage, but (Blair Witch aside) they’re not seriously trying to pass themselves off as really being documentaries or found footage. Instead they are using the format either as a way to tell the story in a certain way, or as a stylistic gimmick. But criticising them for being unrealistic (i.e why would they keep filming at that point) or for always focussing on the stuff that the audience would want to see rather than what you think a random guy with a camera would seems pointless. The filmmakers know they’re making a film, and that the audience simply wouldn’t accept it if there was 10 minutes of film, then 80 minutes of blank screen coz the person holding the camera panicked and ran off (except perhaps if Lars von Trier directed it). I mean I suppose they are trying to have it both ways, but I think that only bothers me if the story/characters etc are not interesting.

    Also my wife just pointed out that the notion of a person with a camera keeping on filming in times of impending dnger being unrealistic is false. Look at all the footage of people in warzones, and they focus on stuff to the point that you wonder how they escaped (at times). So in context of that, the notion of someone continuing to film the giant monster running towrd them (for example) isn’t so ludicrous.

    Honestly, I don’t think you’re raining on any parade by giving the film a lukewarm review, Vern. From what you’ve told me I would guess I might like it more than you, and I’ll watch it when I run out of films I really really want to see.

  18. I actually JUST wrote an article about why I love this movie. It’s unedited, but I think it’s relatively clean copy.

    In 1968’s “Rosemary’s Baby” featured a shot of a woman sitting in a bedroom on the phone with her face blocked by the edge of the doorway. Legend has it that at the first screening nearly the entire audience leaned forward and to the right, trying to see around the corner. Forty years later, this type of visual gimmick has become its own subgenre.

    The latest pseudo-cinema verite feature “Paranormal Activity” has received a lot of buzz. People are going all Blair Witch for this movie. it grossed about 20 million dollars last weekend in only 760 screens. It’s the talk of the town and will soon be one of the most profitable movies of all time – all without being any good.

    Conversely there is [REC], a Spanish film from 2007 that used the same found footage gimmick to create one of the most terrifying films I have ever seen.

    [REC] begins like most found footage movies with a jumble of character introductions hidden inside of what appears to be unedited footage. This type of extended wouldbe character development often kills these movies. By the nature of this subgenre the introductory footage is boring. It is easy to imagine that most viewers make liberal use of the scene select button to make the likes of “Cloverfield” and “Diary of the Dead” watchable.

    Fortunately [REC] has the benefit of an unusually interesting faux-premise. The audience is introduced to the survivor girl — a ditsy young reporter named Angela Vidal — as she does preliminary interviews for a cheesy human-interest segment on the overnight news. Vidal is interesting because unlike most movie journalists she is plainly a hack. She has no real aptitude for reporting, and no real talents to speak of. She is simply cute, and perky, and vaguely slutty without being too sexually aggressive. In one early scene she openly flirts with one of the firefighters that she has been sent to interview. She also has a nice rapport with her cameraman Manu, who is a strong presence throughout the movie, even as he is never seen on screen.

    The real action begins as Vidal follows the firefighters on their first outing of the evening, a seemingly routine trip to an old apartment complex. This being a movie, nothing is so simple and soon there is an all out zombie apocalypse going on inside the building.

    The authorities show up before the infection can escape the building. They put a massive sheet over white plastic over the windows and quarantine the area. When residents try to escape from a 3rd story window they are greeted by a SWAT team will cocked guns.

    What follows is an escalating series of peek-a-boo zombie attacks that build into a pretty cool mystery. Unlike many found footage movies [REC] takes the time to build in set up, foreshadowing, and even plot twists. I am almost never surprised by films and this one had three or four left turns that I didn’t see coming, to say nothing of the half a dozen superb jump scares and the bit where they bash a zombies head in using the camera as a weapon.

    [REC] doesn’t use the found footage angle to hide a lack of ghouls, there are plenty of monsters to be found here and the camera usually remains stable enough so as to allow the viewer to actually see what is happening. And what’s happening is really, really well staged zombie gags. This film is tightly wound. Each successive scene is a new angle on the premise. A new way of using the camera to interact with the setting and forward the story. A new zombie gag, or at least a new way of presenting the same old zombie gag.

    What’s more, this is the only found footage horror film that has ever fully explained why the camera continues to roll. Vidal is a hack and she knows it, so when she finds herself in the middle of the story of a lifetime she recognizes that this is her only chance at legitimacy. Later, the camera’s light is used to illuminate dark rooms after the power is cut. Then, as things become more grim the continued filming becomes a tool for defense when it becomes all too clear that without this footage the residents who are not eaten by the undead will likely disappear thanks to secret government employees.

    And that is what separates [REC] from the pack. Even if this film were told from a perspective other than the cameraman’s, it would still make sense for him to be there and it would still be a story worth watching. I don’t know that this can be said for Cannibal Holocaust, Man Bites Dog, or The Blair Witch Project.

    [REC] was remade as Quarantine. And while that film is decent, it suffers from inferior makeup effects and a cast of semi-known stars that detracts from the sense that any one of the characters could die at any given moment. Go for the original, it’s worth the subtitles.

  19. To speak for why everybody likes it would be presumptuous of me, but I welcome the invitation to weigh in with why I enjoyed it – even while agreeing with most of your beefs with it.

    The same story told in a traditional way would – in my imagination – probably be something like an old Fulci movie like “The Beyond” except confined to a building. I know a lot of people love those old movies, and I suspect many more, like me, love their ambition. Demon’s are quite simply great for film, and I know from other forums of discussion that there are quite a few of us who are patiently waiting for a great demon/ghost film (Standard disclaimer: “The Shining” is of course very good in many ways).

    The style of this film introduced some annoyances as you pointed out, but they are basically part of the formula, and they can be forgiven, even if they wouldn’t be there at all in a perfectly made film. As was explained above by CJ Holden, the style of the film also allowed it to avoid some of the other genre death-traps of over-explanation, which made it feel like a comparatively fresh take.

    The easiest way to explain why many people like it is to emphasize Harker’s argument above: We are starved for good stories in this genre! Also, the introduction of the ghostiness might make this film easier to swallow for a lot of non-zombie fans, increasing the film’s popularity. Off the top of my head, the only other quality (but in some cases less successful) attempts in my suggested ghost/demon genre over the last decade are: 6th sense, Stir of echoes, Blair Witch, 100 feet, The Others, Frailty, What lies beneath, 1408, Dead end, Bubba Ho-Tep, Drag me to Hell, The Devil’s backbone, and The Orphanage. Most young ghost-fans (and judging from crap TV, there should be a lot of them) probably haven’t seen more than a couple of these before seeing [REC].

    However, when the film doesn’t pull you in there’s nothing to do about it. I was just pleasantly surprised to find that I actually started liking [REC] after I had been sitting through half of it building up expectations for a failure. I don’t think I will ever re-watch it, for fear of having another “Event horizon” experience, where I find out that a film I liked is actually not very good on the second run.

    There seems to be more of a love of films than a desire to bash the writer among the talkbackers on this sight, so maybe you actually don’t have to make up for disagreeing with some of your readers on a film like this. But you do it in a very entertaining way, so thank you for your effort!

  20. That review was a good read Hunter D. In combination with the shortcomings that Vern pointed out, your review expressed most of what I felt as I initially watched [REC]. The review made me want to take back my promise of not re-watching the film.

  21. I liked [rec]. Saw it at a film festival in Rotterdam without English subtitles, and it sort of added to it – I could be wrong, but I think it’s strengths don’t really have much to do with ‘explaining’ the zombie/demon/virus thing, and just the uneasy feeling that things are proper fucked and you’re stuck right in the middle of it.

    I made a short ‘found-footage’ horror/thriller thing six or seven years ago for the simple reason that I had zero budget, and wanted to get the best use out of the meager resources I had. Whenever I watch this sort of genre, it’s difficult to shake the feeling that they’re cheating (BLAIR WITCH aside) by trying to replicate zero production design with oodles of money.

    I enjoyed CLOVERFIELD, though, but I thought [rec] was a much better example of how to squeeze the best you can out of that particular sub-genre.

    Good review, though, Vern, won’t boycott the site over it!

  22. Good morning, Vern.

    Didn’t really care for Rec myself. Not liking he zombie genre probably has a lot to do with it.

    Also, I felt that there was way too much exposition in the final apartment with the newspapers and whatnot. It wasn’t the idea that they “killed the mystery”, just that it turned into nothing but several minutes of exposition-dialogue.

    Thanks for pointing out the formula for these movies, though. I’ll be interested to see how that holds up in the future.

  23. That 9/11 footage Vern mentions is unbelievable. The way they cut it together it together, there isn’t a horror premise in the world that can be executed to top what those guys captured by accident. And more then that, it encapsulates so much of what we went through on that day, just in the way people interact and do things. There’s a moment, where the two filmmaker brothers who were seperated, one of them trapped in the collapsing building, reunite after several hours of not knowing if the other was alive or not. And when they see each other, they don’t hug or flip out or make a scene. They just silently put their heads together, and you can see both of them are crying. Like I said, there isn’t a thing Hollywood could do that could ever be that powerful, mean that much. Of course, they keep trying.

  24. I too found myself extremely bored and unimpressed by this movie. Hell, I even watched it twice over a period of some two months just in case it was my fault. It wasn’t. I can understand how people get swept up in the excitement and purely superficial thrill of this film, but to me, horror is something other than just watching people die. True horror is something that hits you in some primal place within yourself that you were scared to admit existed.

    This film is like the hot girl at work that you really want to date. Then you do, and you really that while physically exciting, there is no substance at all to the girl and you find your mind wandering every time she talks. For me, this film fails less because of the gimmick and more because of the logic. Just because you have the found footage approach does not mean that you do not need to create real characters, real character arcs (even if slight) and real logic.

    Let me list my problems:
    1) I can understand how the first biting takes place, freaky old woman covered with blood, but no other reasons to think anything other than there was some accident. How about the little girl biting though? She just took half her mother’s face off and yet the officer never thinks twicec about kneeling down and then turning his back on her. What?

    2) No character ever took a proactive step (I know some proposed various ways to escape, but to me that doesn’t count). I would posit that every single character in the movie merely reacts. That makes for a dramatically inert film.

    3) Same problem with most zombie type films, some people turn right away while others take forever. What?

    4) Yet for all of the fireman and policeman getting taken down by the zombies, somehow this vapid tv reporter is able to avoid being bitten even while finding the right key on an extremely large key ring in approximately two seconds?

    5) Finally, the big one. The proverbial cherry on the fucking sundae. The reason for the story. Demonic possession. Not a virus, but pure on Exorcist shit. What the hell? The whole reason the authorities outside show up is because of the dog taken to the vet. A demonically possessed dog? I know the dog from the Omen looked after Damien, but I never once got the impression it was actually possessed. And when did demonic possession take place because you were bitten by another possessed person? What does this do to all of the religious mythology of a person’s soul, free choice and the whole notion that the devil is more interested in a person’s soul than wanton carnage? But it is still just mind boggling that the whole logic is that demonic possession is capable of being transmitted like a virus.

    As for all of the comparisons to Paranormal Activity. I watched it fully expecting to hate it or at least be bored like I was with REC, but I found myself extremely entertained. For one, it appeared that they actually thought about the characters and created believable characters. Notice I said believable, not necessarily likeable. Those are not the same thing. But along with the believable characters, they also created a unique hook to the whole story that both advanced the story even while providing the reason for why they couldn’t just run away. So for a person who historically does not like “found footage” movies, I truly enjoyed Paranormal Activity..

    Except for the ending. The original ending, while not 100% effective was much better than the shit Spielberg devised and then suggested. How does Spielberg manage to creat a truly great film every few years and then have his finger in another of other projects that he developes or makes suggestions on that turn into complete shit.

    So to conclude, I did not like REC, but thought Paranormal Activity was well worth the look.

    I apologize for any typos as this dialogue box allows me type approximately twenty-five key strokes outside of view before it drops down to the next line.

  25. Man, I wish I had more time, but I’ve gotta make it quick. Excellent review Vern, even though I don’t agree with you. At least, not in terms of rec; for me this is one of the most effective of the fakumentary (or however the fuck you say it) genre. At first the beginning felt padded, but once it kicks in it roars like a motherfucker—and the end was some of the most intense shit I’ve seen in quite a while. It actually had me scared, and that’s no easy thinbg to pull off.

    But I think you’re on to something, comparing this kind of filmmaking with something like the slasher genre. I don’t have more time to write about this, but I want to leave with a general question to the peanut gallery; do any of you love, and I mean looooooooooove, this kind of film like you would a whole genre, say zombie, slasher, etc.? I’ve personally never met anyone who raves and raves about this stuff. You know, someone who says “if someone’s recording someone recording, then I’m there.”

    Anyone, anyone at all?

  26. I think the problem is that this fakumentry stuff has to cut out most of what makes movies enjoyable to us as moviegoers: exagerated characters, stylized dialogue, well shot sequences, cool lighting, music. If a fakumentry has any of those things then it costs it in its cred to seem ‘real’, however lacking those things keeps it from being as entertaining as a normal movie.

  27. “After so many of these fake video movies you start to see that there’s a formula.”

    Film-makers have 101 narrative tricks at their disposal to simulate authenticity and immediacy when they tell a story. And I assume that is what the makers of [REC] et cetera are striving for: immediate “real world” scares that are not bound to the more familiar panoramic cinematography of older films.

    For me, the problem with these particular movies is that the filmatists haven’t been brave enough to seperate the real effectiveness of limited omniscience from the tired conventions of “mockumentary.” I believe that having a limited visual perspective is a very effective way to present horror or suspense, but in all of the films we’re discussing here the
    perspective is burdened with all the artiface of the “found video.” Frankly, I just don’t think any of this expository material is necessary.

    Look at when Kubrick used hand-held in parts of FULL METAL JACKET. He was there in the trenches with the troops and he didn’t need to explain why. The viewer simply enters a deeper level of emersion in the action.

    David Lynch does this constantly, and with more nuance: in MULHOLLAND DR, when the women are about to enter the Silencio Club, the camera almost crawls across the ground, as if it has become inevitability itself chasing after them.

    There’s no reason why these narrative devices couldn’t be expanded upon in a film without the heavy-handedness of mockumentary as a framing device. The irony, of course, is that most viewers probably have seen more fake documentaries than they have real ones.

    I wonder if the film-makers think that their audiences will only buy these narrative and aesthetic choices if they are slavishly bound to YouTube or camera-phone idiom. Or maybe that’s where the film-makers learned the art of film narrative. If so, they should probably bone up on their fundamentals.

    One thing I will say: I wouldn’t write off mockumentary entirely. I think it has great potenial as an idiom. I just think it’s better served on the internet in smaller clips than it is in a feature film. It’s power to surprise and confuse the viewer is far greater if it comes out of the shapeless nowhere of the internet.

    Having said that, [REC] has its moments, and I agree with everyone who has compared this film favorably to PARANORMAL ACTIVITY. Care was obviously taken with the lighting in [REC], the make-up worked for me, and I’m one of those suckers who liked the newspaper montage cliche, so much so that I’ll sit through the sequel to see what they do with it.

  28. My friend and I sat down to watch this a while ago anticipating a great film due to all the hype. We were disappointed. It brought nothing new to the table.

  29. MDM – Care to share with us the original ending of PARANORMAL ACTIVITY?

  30. I thought REC sucked too. Liked the scene w/ the little zombie girl just standing there not doing anything for a long time, liked the first shots of the monster-woman at the end creeping around in silhouette, felt indifferent to everything else. I think it’s time to officially retire the “rage zombies” concept. The only time it ever really worked was in RABID, and that was over 20 years ago.

  31. I’m on the liked side, although I didn’t like it as much as say The Orphanage. I think it was probably the things you said about the decent acting and the successful reveal of the monster at the end that did it for me. I wouldn’t have been one the people hyping it up though, it was more enjoyably solid than “scariest thing ever OMG!!!!”

    Still, I share the general scepticism about the format.

  32. Vern,

    Although I don’t agree with your review, I think your points are fair. What I don’t get, though, is how you could like CLOVERFIELD when it is way guiltier of the stuff you accuse REC of. How is it that CLOVERFIELD’s realism vs. stagey-ness didn’t create an even worse cognitive dissonance for you? It took me out of the movie every single time that dude’s shakey camera was suddenly perfectly framing an ominous glimpse at the monster.

    To give one answer to your question, REC and QUARANTINE effectively exploit a somewhat claustrophobic space, carefully establishing the setting in a seemingly offhanded manner, so that the geography and the mechanics of the set pieces are always clear. I personally was rarely, if ever, distracted by the long takes and instead (to make a somewhat inappropriate comparison) thought it worked a little like the long takes in CHILDREN OF MEN, adding to the intensity and immediacy of the action scenes.

    I’m normally not a fan of the fake documentary style (I disliked THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT, CLOVERFIELD, DIARY OF THE DEAD and even this year’s beloved DISTRICT 9), but found REC (and QUARANTINE, closer to a good cover version than a remake) to be the most effective uses of the gimmick that I’ve seen.

  33. I thought the “rage zombies” were effective in the Dawn of the Dead remake and both the 28 measurement of times later. I will not stand for such baseless accusations against zombies.There is zombie backlash beginning on the boards here and I do not like it. Slow zombies are only scary in very large numbers and/or black and white.

  34. Dan Prestwich – I agree with you about CLOVERFIELD and DISTRICT 9 (though I liked BLAIR WITCH). [REC]’s big advantage over CLOVERFIELD: no douchebags.

    dieselboy: It’s not just the large numbers or the black & white that make slow zombies scary: there’s also their inexhaustability. Speaking strictly for myself, those shambling, tireless fuckers creep me out every time.

  35. Jareth- Yeah I agree that in the Romero classics the slow-moving shamblers are a very effective horror device, but i don’t know if its them or the scenario the heroes are in i.e. being trapped in a building and surrounded by them. It’s either a house or a mall or an underground military complex(if i remember the 3rd one that i haven’t seen since i was a kid). But in each film there’s that growing sense of dread that the zombies will get in and just by there sheer numbers over-whelm the protagonists.
    You have to wonder if Romero had gone with fast moving rage zombies in Night of the Living Dead,Dawn of the Dead etc if any filmmaker that followed would have dared to think to take them in the other direction and make them slower.
    Any way you look at it there is really no going back to the slow ones without it seeming funny imo.

  36. Jareth,

    I will forever be mystified by the critical respect CLOVERFIELD received. Douchebags are only one small part of the problem, even if all the characters were great, the film would still be awkwardly staged, precious and disjointed. Ditto DISTRICT 9. Although it wasn’t as bad, but I just can’t accept action scenes that show that much contempt for spacial relations/visual communication/clear storytelling.

    Maybe I should go back and rewatch it some day, but my problem with BLAIR WITCH is in its lack of artistry. I want atmosphere and well-crafted set pieces, not non-professional cameramen shaking a camera around in the woods.

    I’ll echo what a few people above have said and make a plea for artifice. I’m not looking for realism in my horror films; please, give me moody lighting and elegant camera moves. Perhaps what I liked about REC and QUARANTINE is that it struck a nice balance between the two styles, the “immediacy” of the fake-umentary format, and the heavy-saturated atmospheric artifice of classical style horror.

  37. Boo Vern. Boo.

    Just kidding. Hey, to each his own. I didn’t think it was the best anything, I found it quite enjoyable though. The “found footage” theme seems to be a part of the idiom now. I don’t mind it.

    I think I used “idiom” correctly?

  38. What makes the Cloverfield characters douchebags? They spend the whole movie desperately trying to reach someone they all care about, and they stand together even as the city around them devolves into chaos and destruction.

  39. Paranormal Activity in its present cut is much the same as it was a couple of years ago besides some tighter editing throughout the body of the film. The ending was the same up through the girl going downstairs and her boyfriend following her. The sound of the struggle and screams were the same. Then she comes back upstairs, bloody with a knife and does the rocking thing as the time lapse speeds forward for two or three days. Then you hear her friend show up and find the boyfriend and call the cops. Cops show up and and she wakes up, still covered in blood with the knife. They come up the stairs and she appears confused and won’t put the knife. They open fire and kill her.

    Supposedly another version that was shot has her actually coming back upstairs with the knife and then slitting her own throat. I am unsure of that version though as neither I, nor anyone I know has seen it.

  40. Dan Prestwich: Here’s Vern’s take from his original review:

    “I hate shakycam because it takes the geography out of action scenes, but I didn’t think it would be a problem here since obviously I know going in that it’s the whole reason for the movie. It makes it seem like a real video but in a weird way it kind of made themovie less intense for me, it’s kind of distancing. Because it puts you in the position of watching a video of an event, not experiencing the event.”

    It’s very consistent with his [REC] review. I figure CLOVERFIELD gets more slack because of its scale: all other mockumentaries feel like high school projects in comparison.

    I’d be more forgiving of CLOVERFIELD if I thought the film had something to say about the two things that determine its identity as a film: the portable media and the douchebaggery. Acknowleding that portable media effects our perceptions isn’t such a sophisticated point that it needs to be driven home with every frame of the film; even Peter Greenaway isn’t that rigorous with his framing devices.

    In the end, your phrase “awkwardly staged” sums it up nicely. There simply isn’t any thematic weight to the use of the hand-held camera, and there is nothing important to be learned about these people or their relationships. So I say lose the hand-held completely. If you want to follow around douchebags at close quarters, then fine. The film would have been better for me if
    the camera simply wasn’t acknowledged; what does the director think will happen to the audience if the camera isn’t always being acknowledged? That an actual film might occur?. God forbid. In my ideal world, a writer would
    have given the douchebags something to say.

    I appreciate your preference for conventional horror film-making. It should be noted that these mockumentaries are just as rife with artiface as any other film, but they wear their artiface transparently. I still think one day a talented director will make a great film in this idiom.

    As for BLAIR WITCH, well, no one will ever accuse it of having an abundance of artistry. I guess the atmosphere worked better for me than it did for you, but I won’t pretend that it isn’t flawed.

    dieselboy: Awe, come on now, I support your call for an end to the zombie backlash. Let’s give slow zombies a chance; they still have potential in the hands of the right writer/director.

  41. Sorry Vern — I tried to warn ya.

    I’m not completely against the fakeumentary style, and overall I thought the concept was reasonably well executed. The problem for me was, I found the whole thing a little on the dull side. The first scene with the lady in the apartment is pretty awesome, but nothing you haven’t seen before (save for the fakumentary angle) and after that, it seemed like it was kind of coasting until the (admittedly cool and scary) ending.

    Unfortunately, I think they assumed the first-person gimmick was going to be enough to make it memorable and intense. Not the case. I don’t mind it, but just adding worse photography doesn’t elevate a medicore zombie story. Although in its defense, I did think the first-person perspective helped to elevate the claustrophobia of the setting. A conventional movie would probably have been tempted to cut to the outside world, or cut between floors/ characters, in a way which would have worked against the feeling of being trapped inside. Still not enough to really get me going, though. It’s certainly not a travesty or anything, and I found it enjoyable enough, but nothing to really get excited about.

  42. Brendan – I’m not saying that the CLOVERFIELD kids aren’t decent, morally speaking. But yeah, they’re douchebags. Every word that comes out of their mouths is so steeped in affectation that you want to slap them upside the head. You know,
    like those girls? You know, the ones whose, like, sentences end in a question? Even when they’re not, you know, asking a question?

  43. Using Vern’s formula, there should be a fakeumentary of a zombie attack that just so happens to be filmed during a porno shoot. First it starts casual like any other sex scene, but then all of a sudden zombies bust in killing the crew and cast. People are getting eating out in more ways than one and not in the good way. Only the remaining crew members and maybe a few naked people try to survive with handful of sex toys and boom mics. Okay, maybe not the best idea. But at least it wouldn’t totally be a fakeumentary anymore but one helluva porno? Maybe not a crowd pleaser, but an interesting one to watch for the sake of curiosity (I always wondered what other shit people happen to be doing when zombies attack). I haven’t seen Diary of the Dead so they might have done this already. But imagine if some these last few survivors were porn stars? Or just people having sex? What would happened? And what if it happened during a tense scene with a weird camera angle at the time? And what other parts of the studio happen to have footage of it during this outbreak as well? And don’t put it on me as me having this weird fetish for snuff, you know damn well its a curious idea.

    Theres just no convincing folks of fakeumentarys it seems. But I find them pretty entertaining for some reason. Its like being in those 3-D rides where you’re not really in a rollercoaster and just end up with that dizzying feeling. Sure it might not be fun the whole time, but at least they tried to emulate that experience for us. And I guess thats what I really like about movies like this, just for that fact that they try to give us that feeling of being witness to these events. Face it these movies were bound to happen after thinking the whole “what if” deal. And for something like this to happen in a real life outbreak, [REC] did a pretty good job in my opinion. For [REC] i think i enjoyed the most compared to the others, because it did what it could in a lower budget than Cloverfield by adding a better pace and layering it more than just standard zombie horror.

    Anyway, heres hoping the “Let the right one in” review is well, a little more hopeful

  44. MDM – thanks for clarifying that. I had heard that there were several
    endings. Not sure which of those you describe I’d prefer. What is it about the
    current theatrical version that doesn’t work for you as well as the others? The
    jump-at-the-camera cliche that everyone has done before?

  45. I always thought they should do one of these fakementaries (different from mockumentaries?) using the camera helmets from Aliens. That way you can keep the “found footage” conceit, but you can also edit from multiple angles like a real movie, and you don’t have to explain why they keep filming in the face of horrific danger: the cameras are attached to their fucking heads.

  46. Mr. Subtlety – For me, [REC]’s modest pleasures lie in the building where the story is set and the way that building was illuminated. I also liked the way they depicted the tired old scenario of placing the building under quarantine.

    That attic room also seemed both pausible and creepy to me. But hey, I’m that guy who didn’t see the twist in THE SIXTH SENSE coming.

  47. Majestyk,

    From what I’ve read online, that sounds like the gimmick they are using for REC 2.


    No doubt that these movies are full of plenty of artifice. I guess what I object to is that they are trying to sweep the artifice under the rug so that you don’t see it. I say embrace the artifice, embrace the craft.

    You have a great name, by the way.

  48. Jareth –

    The jump tactic does not bother me so much as the lack of any advancement in the story or the mythology.

    The mythology was a large part of the reason that PA intrigued me. As the current version ended, no advancement in the story, just that bullshit CGI final image. I ABSOLUTELY hated that.

    Killing herself would have been a nice bookend to the shot where Micah makes the cutting his throat gesture into the camera when she wasn’t looking.

    The rocking for two or three days, only to awaken, confused scared and seemed a little clunky but also effective. The demon obviously wanted to harm the girl, not possess indefinitely. (In my opinion anyway) Additionally, I find this ending frightening because it made me think of all those moments where I see on the news that some genuinely nice guy (or girl) commits some heinous act which shocks everyone who knew them, and then is killed before any explanation is profferred/

    It’s a nice what if possibility that evil can exist in the world and can somehow force decent people to do horrible things.

    A couple of weeks back, I recommended Session 9 in the horror movie recommendation talkback. It deals with a lot of the same philosophical issues of evil and the weakness of certain human spirits. I find those ideas to be truly frightening.

    Which brings me back to my original complaint against REC. I do not like the idea of demonic possession as a virus with no regards to a person’s will or soul. Doesn’t fit for me.

  49. Hm, Jareth that’s an interesting point, and I’m not saying you’re wrong to be annoyed by that. I wouldn’t call them douchebags, necessesarily, just kids. They weren’t any more annoying to me then any other set of kids that populate horror movies. PJ Soles in Halloween and Carrie was way worse with that kind of shit, saying “Totally” every other word, wearing that fucking red hat over her hair dryer. I’m curious what your take on those characters are.

  50. Seriously, I thought I would get over it, but now after almost two years I still got no idea why so many people seem to have such an insane hatred for the people in Cloverfield! The only person in it who I would lable as douchebag was the guy who had the camera and even that just because he made a joke about a burning hobo in the most inappropiate moment. Wanna see douchebags? Check out the kids in 98% of all slasher movies. Or even the two guys and the women in Blair Witch! The people in Cloverfield don’t come even close! In fact, I would even lable them pretty likable.
    I don’t know, maybe it’s one of these American vs. European things, but apparently I have a a much higher tolerance for cinematic douchebags than most others.

  51. MDM,

    To be fair, the demonic possession angle is barely touched upon in REC. It’s essentially a zombie/infectious monster movie, and it’s more apt to compare it to that subgenre than to movies like SESSION 9.

    It doesn’t have much to say about the human soul or the nature of evil, but you have to give it some props for its constantly-building manic energy. The idea of doing a zombie movie in a confined space is actually pretty clever; one of the main pleasures of REC/QUARANTINE is watching just how fast the good guys become outnumbered.

  52. Dan –

    I agree with the manic energy comment. REC was fairly relentless. It is just that after it was over, and I thought about it that the whole movie fell apart.

    And REC 2 is supposed to delve more deeply into the demonic possession side with the proposed cameras mounted
    on the military/police team sent into the building.

    My whole point to the idea of demonic possession and REC is that regardless of the many other problems with the
    film in my mind, the whole movie crumbles like a house of cards with the demonic possession being the impetus for this outbreak.

  53. Dan-

    Also, I was originally comparing Session 9 to Paranormal Activity as it popped up as one of the side discussions based on the whole found footage comments.

  54. MDM,

    I may have misread your comment, but it looks like you are comparing REC to SESSION 9 in terms of their presentation of demonic possession.

    I still think you’re being a little too hard on REC over one small detail, but I agree that it’s not a well introduced or executed element of the film.

  55. I think the people with this intense hatred for the youths in Cloverfield just hate young people in general. I thought the characters were a pretty accurate portrayal of this age group. Unlike most horror movie youths they didn’t all try to get drunk or snuggle during a dangerous situation. And if I remember correctly they were all supposed to be pretty rich but didn’t come off like callous spoiled Brett Easton Ellis characters. So I never got the hate either. It’s supposed to be a realistic survivalist movie, not a movie about a hero, so the people are going to be average and weak in that they tremble and cry and panic every now and then.

    I also liked that they were a group of established friends and not your typical mismatched group of stereotypes who always get bundled together in these Romero type situations. If there’s one cliché that I am a bit sick of it’s how these zombie/monster situations always seem to create groups of survivors that include one person from each social group. One snobby rich dude. One tough authority figure guy like a soldier or something. One pretty middleclass lady with more strength than you’d think at first glance. One wisecracking fat stoner dude. Etc. I think it makes sense that a group of people who were together when the monster attack begins would survive together.

  56. Vern, you are right about the formula in these films, with the most obvious and annoying one of all being (spoiler i guess) – the protagonists awlays die at the end. I haven’t seen Diary of the Dead, but Blair Witch, Cloverfield, and Rec all end the same way, and you know what’s coming because at the start you get the whole – ‘they were never seen again but we found their camera’ crap, which was cool the first time, but basically it just gives away the ending.

    I would love to see a film like this where at the end the camera operator gets away, walks up to a reporter and goes ‘fucking check this shit out!’ and just hands the camera over.

  57. MDM — Not a fan of [REC] myself, but I took the “demonic possession” thing to mean that the Vatican had sent the priest to look into the literal origins of the myth of possession. That is, just as schizophrenia and chorea were once thought to be signs of demonic possession but were later proven to be linked to actual diseases/mental states with strong, factual explanations, so too was this virus a real, literal thing (that resulted in zombism) that had over the decades been *misinterpreted* to be demonic possession. So issues of the soul, free will, theology, etc., don’t enter into it, because it isn’t literally demons taking over people, but rather that’s what the church had (perhaps inadvertently) twisted it into. Of course, I haven’t seen [REC] 2, so perhaps they really do go whole-hog on the demonic possession thing, in which case fuck ’em.

  58. Dan,

    There were some earlier posts discussing Paranormal Activity (also with the idea of demonic possession) and REC. My two cents were I found PA’s handling of the possession to be much more effective and in line with Session 9. And I am cognizant of the importance I place, but this wass not my only flaw with REC, just the biggest of many flaws that completely took me out of enjoying the movie.

  59. Jareth — yeah, I think we’re pretty much on the same page, bud. Modest pleasures, effective atmosphere, a one or two genuinely scary scenes. Not a bad effort, but nothing to write home about either. I was glad to have seen it, but baffled by the breathless, gushing adulation the thing recieved.

  60. Good point “Greg.” Guess we will have to wait for REC 2. I hate that I am waiting to see a sequel to a movie that I really didn’t like in the first place. Oh well.

  61. How does this film compare to the American remake Quarantine. I’ve seen Quarantine and would say i enjoyed it for the most part,my biggest complaint being they ruined the ending in the trailer. Is it basically the same, shot-for-shot and plot wise, or is there a whole lot of new freaky shit I need to see?

  62. dieselboy,

    QUARANTINE is more like a faithful cover song than a remake. It very closely restages REC, not just the story and characters, but the look, set design, the staging of many of the shots. It’s not quite Gus Van Sant’s PSYCHO, but it does have a similar xerox feeling to it.

    That said, I think they do a good job copy/translating the film. The result is more or less the same as REC, building the same kind of energy and calustrophobia. QUARANTINE is a rare beast, a film that I think is quite good but where I’d give little credit to the filmmakers. They essentially stole Balaguero and Plaza’s film and made a few cosmentic changes (some are improvements, some are neutral, some are detractions) but, for me at least, the result is a film that’s probably equally as good as the original.

    I’m sure most REC fans won’t agree with me, though.

  63. Dan –

    Maybe because I am not a REC fan, but I completely agree with your assessment. Did love the whole camera
    bludgeoning trick though.

  64. Brendan – I guess the problem I have with the CLOVERFIELD douchebags is symptomatic of the mockumentary in general: the scripts either tried to replicate spontaneous speech or gave the cast license to improvise. In my subjective experience, I just felt that the so-called characters were poorly written; the writers stopped bravely at the surface of a Beneton ad.

    If they were improvising, they should take some lessons from the CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM cast. In fact, they should have just used the CURB cast. MARTY FUNKHOUSER MEETS THE MONSTER would have been more enjoyable for me.

    When an annoying character is obviously a writer’s creation, like in CARRIE or HALLOWEEN, they tend to inhabit a more diverse world than what the CLOVERFIELD people accomplished. Or maybe Wolfgang is right. Maybe I just don’t relate to the kids today. If that’s the case, if the CLOVERFIELD douchebags are accurate representations of today’s multifaceted youth, then
    all I can say is: get the hell off my lawn!

    Wolfgang – See above. In fairness, I didn’t expect the Cloverdouches to be heroic. In fact, I like the idea that their personal problems suddenly get dwarfed by the monster. It would have been nice if the writers gave them a way to articulate their problems in language that didn’t annoy me. I’m convinced that in ten years we’ll look back at the dialogue in this film with the same kind of amusement that we look back on the stylized dialogue of a blaxploitation film.

    They could have at least come up with some variations on “like, omigod!”

    But I’ll give you a complete bullseye on the conveniently thrown together group of people that neatly represent every possible socioeconomic group. Good call on that one.

    I gotta say, this has been a really cool conversation. I’m enjoying this a lot. Thanks for giving us this forum, Vern.

  65. MDM,

    Thanks for getting my back. I owe you one.

  66. I never saw this either, but I did see Cloverfield Zomb… err… Quarantine and that was shit. I know that was a remake of this film but the concept is so tired and useless (SEE: Diary of the Dead) that I have no interest in seeing

  67. That makes sense Jareth. I still think you’re being a little harsh on the Cloverfield gang (compare them to the kids in Blair Witch or Diary and they start looking like Nobel Lauraetes and Carebears) but your making sense. I guess for me it’s the opposite, I’ve never really met anyone who acts like PJ in those movies, so it is easier for me to disconnect and focus on her as an actor giving a performance and the performance is pissing me off, when the hell is Carrie getting the blood on her so she can shut her up? With Cloverfield, I know a couple people like them, shit, my older sister may as well be a toned down, less yuppie-y version of that. And while I wouldn’t consider those people (besides my sister, duh) my friends, I still wouldn’t cheer if a giant monster stepped on them. Well, maybe I would, but c’mon look at the circumstances, how could I not?

  68. MDM – You’ve put way more thought into the mechanics of PARANORMAL ACTIVITY than I have, so I’m kind of winging my response at this point. It’s funny that there is something disposable about these mockumentary films; they don’t really invite you to dwell on them.

    But I agree with you: the actual idea of the demonic possession isn’t articulated very well. In fact, I’d venture to say that the director was much more interested in devising interesting scares than he was in fleshing out the film’s plot reasoning. I walked away from the film with a half-formed idea somewhere in the vicinity of what “Greg” articulated above, but not as coherent. So I’ll blame the film for that.

    If you were expecting something along the lines of SESSION 9 then I can see why you’d be disappointed. SESSION 9 was a well crafted film that paid as much attention to the themes as it did to the scares. And it had David Caruso before he became a big old ham.

    I was simply hoping that PARANORMAL ACTIVITY would be on par with [REC]. Which ain’t setting the bar very high (though it still managed to squeak under).


    I thought that throwing the dude across the room at the end worked, but that the jump at the camera was silly. I wonder if the endings could have been combined somehow.


    Mr. Subtlety – Let me ask you this: if [REC] was released to the world as several 10-minute installments on some guy’s website, would you think of the film more favorably? I think it’s a failure of imagination that many of these projects end up in theatres when they would be much more effective in other contexts.

    Dan Prestwich – does the whole demonic thing come across in QUARANTINE? I find that the long and creepy history of Catholicism can be mined better in European contexts than in American ones. The reason I didn’t bother with QUARANTINE was that I was convinced that the attic sequence wouldn’t have that musty old atmosphere.

  69. Mr. Majestyk : Glad we’re on the same page with the Aliens helmet cameras . Another good point of that solution is exposition . Instead of introducing a character with knowledge of what is happening , and wasting ten minutes for the exposition scene , you can have a commander ( like Gorman in Aliens ) connected to them via radio , from a relatively safe position , maybe a still functioning military base ( assuming that this happens in a zombie movie ) with medics and scientists ( like original Day of the Dead). The scientific team comes up with ideas , or other news to keep the story going , and the commander keeps the soldiers ( and us ) informed . All of this off camera , while we follow the ACTION on screen . You know , like in Terminator , when Reese explains why he’s here during the car chase.

  70. Jareth — very interesting question. A part of me is inclined to like that idea, because the thing is in some ways very much a series of parts, along with some fat in between those parts which would probably be easy to lose in a online series. On the other hand, one of the things which I thought did work about the film was the claustrophobic atmosphere, which builds during the runtime and, I think, would be weakened by a serial format. It’s definitely an interesting idea, though honestly I think with [REC] I just found the whole experience to be a little too vanilla to really get into it*, no matter what the format might be. Maybe if they’d just released the LAST 15 minutes onto a website, I might have fallen hard for it as a truly great short film. But this is certainly a brand new frontier which has been mostly ignored. I would definitely be interested in seeing how something like what you’re proposeing would play out.

    * except, of course, the awesome end.

  71. Jareth,

    The attic sequence is still a highlight… I’m trying to remember about the demonic possession angle. QUARANTINE might not go that route… I seem to recall that it implies something spooky, but also possibly scientific, is going on, the nature of which is kept vague.

    The monster is scarier looking in REC, though.

  72. “I think the people with this intense hatred for the youths in Cloverfield just hate young people in general.”

    Bingo! Their only crime is being young, and quite a crime it is.

    Oh, I’ll admit to having done it myself in the past. But I got over it.

  73. Brendan – you may be right. It’s true that I can tolerate slackers more than yuppies. And in my memory the BLAIR WITCH kids were slackers. I haven’t seen that film since it was in theaters, so you may be completely right.

    Here’s the thing: the mockumentary style doesn’t always allow for those longer, lingering shots on an actor’s face (BLAIR WITCH had that one famous shot). It’s often those shots that speak volumes. I actually think the Cloverkids had a big acting challenge trying to communicate something in brief, fragmented gestures and phrases. BLAIR WITCH was
    lethargic in comparison. I guess I feel like I at least got to know the BLAIR WITCH kids beyond the surface.

    One day someone will get it right.

  74. rewrite : Zombie attack during the filming of a porno movie ? Fantastic idea , especially if it’s one of those themed pornos , you know , like the “plumber and wife” or “student and teacher” . But , like in a good horror movie , you don’t explain it . We start with the plumber and the wife talking about the “kitchen” problem ( the audience here thinks this is the setup before the zombie outbreak ). Then they start fucking like rabbits , for a good 5 minutes ( the audience goes : what the fuck ? I paid for a zombie movie here ! ) . Then , out of nowhere , zombie outbreak ! Of course , for this to work effectively , the trailer must skip over the porno angle , to keep the surprise intact .

  75. I get the same feeling when people talk shit about “hipsters.” There’s really no such thing. A hipster is just a person who you think thinks they’re cooler than you. That’s it. So what if they wear a different style of jeans than you wore when you were that age? You wore a different style of jeans than your parents, and so on and so forth. The kids will always be different than the generation preceding them. Fact. Modern-day hipsters are no worse than the wiggers of the 90s or the metalheads of the 80s. They will all eventually get too old to pull off that look, the world will move on to a different ideal, and then the kids of the future (who will hopefully be rocking aluminum foil jumpsuits and emerald green visors) will have 3D websites devoted solely to spotting people in skinny jeans riding fixed gear bikes. The sad lesson of hipster hatred is this: You looked like an idiot when you were young, too. You were just too busy having fun to notice.

  76. Dan Prestwich : No demonic possession in Quarantine , only rabid zombies , like 28 days later .

    SPOILERS : In the attic there’s a wall full of newspapers , and the attic itself is full of cages with test animals . Seems like a terrorist attack , or a planned terrorist attack gone incredibly bad .

  77. KermiT,

    But I seem to recall some other weird details, like that tape that had some weird, slowed down chant sounding thing on it. I kind of think they were going for an “I don’t know WHAT the fuck is going on here” vibe.

  78. Re: doktor rock

    Thanks. It’s for a weekly column I write for my college paper called “Off the Beaten Path”. I look at movies that are coming out each week and I find a similarly themed, and underseen, film to write about. For Jennifer’s Body I did another horror comedy (Brain Damage). For Surrogates I did another multiple body movie (Hedwig and the Angry Inch). This week for Paranormal Activity I chose [REC].

    The article still needs to be cleaned up and tightened. I reuse some words too often and repeat a few ideas, but overall I’m happy with it. Glad you liked it too.

  79. I wonder why nobody mentioned that the thing on the attic was played by Doug Jones in Quarantine. (Which is pretty much the only reason why I wanna check out this movie. )

  80. I was able to buy into [REC] for the most part, but one thing bugged me though. In CLOVERFIELD I can understand walking around with a camera, it’s like filming a natural disaster. With zombies though, aren’t you going to want to have a bit of mobility and at least one free hand? I mean, this isn’t a camcorder, it’s a big-ass shoulder mounted thing. I never saw QUARANTINE but I did see a clip where the cameraman bashes the zombie with the camera and I laughed my ass off. If you’re going to smack a zombie with a camera, are you really going to thrust the fucking LENS into it’s face? Unfortunately the fakumentary style will inevitably lead to contrived and ridiculous shit like that.

  81. Dan Prestwich : Yeah , they kind of explain it , and kinda not . The cages with test animals seems to point in the direction of a failed experiment or a failed chemical weapon , but there’s some kind of weird element like the tape . They have the infected dog , but the only explanation is given by a doctor , and it’s rabies , I don’t remember any specific reference to demons and (SPOILERS) the “final creature” is only a zombie , if I remember right , in his underpants with an hammer!
    In my opinion , this is the guy working on the test animals , turned zombie.I think the film makers originally wanted some kind of supernatural element in the movie , then switched to a more “safe” solution with rabid zombies , but the movie still has some weird , spooky elements .

    On another note , I’ve just seen the trailer of REC 2 and , yes , they use the “camera on helmets” style , finally ! That’s what I want to see , they even shoot with weapons like that cool sequence in DooM . I’m officially interested in the sequel .

  82. There was a Zombies-Attack-A-Porn-Shoot comic called XXXombies.

    I want to give my take on Fast vs. Slow Zombies. I think Fast Zombies are pretty much just slow zombies with one less weakness/one more threat. A slow zombie is a joke, logically speaking. If it sees you from across the road, and starts to slowly shamble towards you, then you can get away from them with a brisk walk. We all know this. A fast zombie in the same situation though, doesn’t just inspire fear/wariness, but PANIC. It’s coming straight at you, as fast as it can, and that somehow makes it more personal. It seems DESPERATE to get you, and you know that as soon as you tire or as soon as you come to a dead end, it’s over. Fast zombies also mean there’s less reason to cheat and have slow zombies suddenly jumping the fuck out of nowhere with no warning. That always bugs me in Slow Zombie movies. These things are dumb, slow, and pretty noisy with all the moaning and shuffling. There’s no way I can accept them being smart or stealthy enough to hide out somewhere and catch someone by surprise. Unless they were a ninja who got turned into a zombie.
    I think there’s a lot of potential in fast zombies for some intense chase scenes. Imagine a fast zombie movie where the survivors are Parkour enthusiasts, being run ragged across rooftops and tight corridors, having to slip through all the spaces and find creative routes out, and also being able to use their skills to fight back a bit?

  83. Oh and as for the fakeumentary style, it isn’t ever what attracts me to a film. It’s more about what it’s depicting and the story and what impression I get from the trailers. So it’s a movie by movie thing, though I do agree it is pretty played out.

  84. “I think there’s a lot of potential in fast zombies for some intense chase scenes. Imagine a fast zombie movie where the survivors are Parkour enthusiasts, being run ragged across rooftops and tight corridors, having to slip through all the spaces and find creative routes out, and also being able to use their skills to fight back a bit?”

    That might be exciting or entertaining, but some of of consider the “actionization” of horror a negative development. Fights, high-speed chases and explosions aren’t scary. Scenes of people being thrown across rooms and into/through walls belong in comic book films — unless they get thrown into the wall and break their back and are crippled for the duration of the movie.

    I like Aliens a lot, but James Cameron has a lot to answer for.

  85. Damn, just when I thought we were onto something.

    Ah well, theres always big monster attacks city while filming a porno shoot. The idea will be just as played out as the fakeumentary genre it was supposed to be in.

  86. This is why I love your work, Vern. Even when I assume from the get-go that I’m going to completely disagree with you I still end up agreeing with everyone of your points. You never disappoint.

    That said, I still had a great time watching the film though, so I guess it’s just down to how much you’re willing to forgive the formula.

    Oh well. Congrats on being a quoted reviewer, btw.

  87. Stu: You wrote: “If it sees you from across the road, and starts to slowly shamble towards you, then you can get away from them with a brisk walk. We all know this.”

    But think about this: eventually the humans can no longer walk briskly; eventually they have to rest; they have to sleep. An exhausted human confronting the inexhaustibility of the slow zombie is scarier for me than the berserk attack; the fatalistic realization that slow zombies are inevitably going to catch up. It’s like the slow zombie personifies death itself.

    But you make good points abut fast zombies. And I have no problem with fast zombies. I celebrate my zombie brothers in all their diversity. Even break dancing zombies.

    rewrite: tell me where and when and I’ll be first in line to see PORN ZOMBIE.

    Mr. Subtlety: Okay, how about this: [REC] is a long performance staged live on the internet, sort of like a combination of a Halloween haunted house and that Big Brother television show/web feed where every room has a camera in it. On the [REC] web site, you have the option of choosing numerous perspectives through which to view the action, like through the cameraman’s camera, through stationary security cameras, through another character’s iPhone, et cetera. Maybe you have the option of watching multiple viewpoints simultaneously. The zombie action is spaced out more in this live performance, but during the down time, when characters are either re-grouping, sleeping or sobbing, you can view pre-recorded material, such as the newscaster’s previous segments from her show, or the personal videos from the other character’s iPhone. Maybe there’s an audio stream where you can eavesdrop on a walkie talkie from the military. In stead of special effects, the actors would really have to sell their transformation into zombies.

    Admittedly, you’d lose some of the intensity and dramatic build up that the film achieves, but in exchange you’d get multiple viewpoints and a much more intimate sense of the geography of the building. You’d also have long periods of dread, punctuated, perhaps, by an off-camera noise that the cast respond to. And the burden to constantly frame the narrative through one camera source would be removed. The live aspect should help restore a little of the urgency that is lost in the protracted performance time.

  88. Jareth: Yes, that’s exactly how I feel about slow zombies too. You can’t escape death. That is what makes them so scary. Fast zombies may be more “exciting” but it kinda misses the point. Once you take away that element of inevitability, what’s the difference between a zombie and any other monster?

  89. CrustaceanHate: Has there been a particular movie where you thought fast-moving zombies worked particularly well? I could see someone making a good argument for the effectiveness of fast zombies in a small space, but when it comes to the classic shot of the zombies coming at you down a street at night, slow zombies work best for me.

  90. Well, I thought the 28 Days/Weeks movies used it pretty well. The opening sequence of Weeks, where Carlyle tore ass through the hills, as hordes of the infected crested over the top in hot pursuit, it got my pulse up more then slow moving ones probably could have. I generally prefer them over the speed-freak ones that are so popular now.

  91. Brendan: How do you think 28 WEEKS compares to 28 DAYS? I only saw the first one. The fast zombies didn’t bother me in 28 DAYS.

  92. I am not prejudiced against fast zombies. I can think of lots of movies I liked that had fast zombies in them (DAWN OF THE DEAD (2004), 28 DAYS/WEEKS LATER, RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD) but for the most part they don’t really feel like true zombie movies to me.

    DAWN OF THE DEAD (1978) is my favourite horror film of all time. Watching that film you really get the impression that the world is turning to shit and there’s nothing anyone can do about it. The slow zombies play an important role in setting that mood, with fast zombies it wouldn’t be the same.

  93. Well, I haven’t seen either of them in a while (although I’ll probably watch Weeks sometime in the next couple days, I’m on a horror kick right now) but I think I prefer Weeks. Days is a good version of a story we’ve all seen a thousand times before, but Weeks seemed to be trying to do something new and progress the world where the Rage virus exists, instead of just starting over in some new location like most sequels would have. Plus, the movie has some serious cajones. It is absolutely merciless when it comes to offing characters, you never know when someone is about to get picked off, and when they go it is usually absolutely jaw-dropping jsut how mean the filmmakers go about doing it. I will say that Weeks’ camera work leaves something to be desired, it’s never to bad, it usually has a Paul Greengrass affect of being kind of disorienting but in an immersive, documentary kind of way, and less in a Tony Scott epileptic fit style. There are a couple moments though, mostly in big melee sequences, where it seems like to quote Vern, “they were swinging the camera around on a rope.” Still, the atmosphere, the high quality of the acting and writing, the subtext and the strong characterization and attempts to shake up the formula make up for the occasional lacking camera work. So it gets the Brendan seal of approval, whatever the hell that’s worth, if you liked the first one I see no reason why Weeks wouldn’t do the job.

  94. […] which was remade in the US as Quarantine. This week Outlaw Vern takes a whack at [Rec] and it turns out he doesn’t like it much. Oddly enough, I found myself in agreement with most of his review, though the movie worked well […]

  95. Y’all have got me doubting myself, but if asked directly after seeing [Rec] whether or not it was in any way supposed to have been about demonic possession, I would have looked at the questioner incredulously, possibly chortled briefly, and said no. For one thing, the idea that various newspapers would have reported some girl’s sickness (however bizarre) as demon possession is so ludicrous that my mind just didn’t process those clues as facts. Did I just not notice that these were special religious newspapers? How I processed all that information was that there was this girl with some unknown and seriously abnormal problem and that she’d been tagged with the “possessed girl” appellation by the media (i.e., the “possession” was figurative). The character who lived in the attice, however, knew the true cause of her malady (because, I guess, he’d been sent by the Vatican to look into the case), which seemed to be some sort of contagious infection. I like my interpretation because, for one, it makes more sense, and for two, I actually thought it was really clever and cool that the movie revealed the story behind the events it depicted by presenting the viewer with an incorrect interpretation of that story and then forcing the viewer to do a little work of his/her own in piecing together the reality. But like I said, y’all have got me doubting myself, and I suppose it’s possible that I was supposed to take the possession stuff at face value. That’s kind of disappointing.

    Re: Session 9, I just watched that a couple days ago. It’s pretty fucking awesome in exactly the way that a lot of the stuff that Vern reviews is probably awesome (I say “probably” because I don’t get around to watching a lot of DTV action and whatnot myself): horrible production values, atrocious acting, inscrutable premise, but still pretty creepy (in parts) and deliciously ridiculous. I respect it for having the balls to present a completely incomprehensible explanation for its own action and its commitment to absurd red herrings. In fact, those two things are directly related, I think: the movie is so committed to throwing you off its trail with non sequitur and red herring that it can’t finally resolve itself into anything rational, but instead of scrapping any of the red herrings, the filmmakers just went ahead with the irrationality. I can’t express how fucking enjoyable that is.

  96. The bad thing with slow zombies is you end up getting alot of scenes in the older horror films where a person just kinda stands there and waits for the shambler to get to them. It will literally be like a shot of the zombie arms out slowly progressing, cut to a shot of the victim arms raised and screaming(but just standing there),cut back to shambler getting closer, cut back to person hiding behind their arms etc etc.

    You really don’t get that “oh shit” moment like you do with the new zombies when you stumble upon just one. I mean yeah a horde of zombies will probably inevitably get in the house and eat you and your whole family. But like in the Dawn of the Dead remake, when the Tim Roth looking dude stumbles upon the zombie eating the janitor its an instant “oh shit what the fuck do i do RIGHT NOW moment”, he doesn’t get to just run off back to the other survivors for help.
    I just think that’d be much easier to work the new faster zombies into the older classics and still have them be great hooror films. But i think inserting the shamblers into the new zombie flicks would just ruin the movies. Almost every kill scene would have to be re-written to be way less exciting.

  97. I think we all understand that fast zombies are more of a threat and lend more to action sequences, no one is denying that. Thing is, that’s not really the issue. The reason that slow zombies are better is because slow zombies are creepier.

    Zombies are walking corpses, grotesqueries that remind us of our own mortality, and that our bodies are little more than rotting meat. That is what is horrifying about them, that they are dead people who became UNdead. Fast zombies, even when they are technically dead people and not infected people, don’t bring to mind these connotations. They aren’t much different from angry, crazy living people.

    I have nothing against fast zombies, I think the 28 DAYS LATER movies are awesome, not to mention RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD, REC/QUARANTINE, NIGHTMARE CITY and plenty of others. But can we acknowledge that what points the fast zombies gain in threat/intensity, they lose in creepiness? Fast zombies are fine, but they lack the slow zombies’ ability to disturb and unsettle the audience.

  98. How about a found footage film from the perspective of Bub from Day of the Dead? He finds a camera and figures out how to use it. It wont be any more choppy camera work than the Bourne films.

  99. And during Bub’s ensuing adventures with his new camera, he could find his way onto the set of a porn film, which would dovetail nicely with Rewind’s idea from upthread.

  100. Almost up to 100! I had a feeling this review would generate some controversy. The funny thing is, it’s now a controversy over fast vs slow zombies, not [rec]. It’s the debate that won’t die. This really is the “Beatles vs. Rolling Stones” of the modern era. Among people on the internet who watch too many movies and don’t get out much.

    I do think it’s generational. The younger kids want everything pumped-up and frantic. They don’t seem to appreciate creepiness.

    I’m fine with the 28 zombies, because they AREN’T ZOMBIES. They’re not dead. Like Romero said, you fall apart when you die, you don’t become more athletic. If a movie features running “infected,” fine, but the headshot rule should not apply. You should be able to kill them by normal means, because THEY’RE NOT ZOMBIES. Play by George’s rules or don’t, you can’t have it both ways.

    Somebody get to work on a Beatles zombies vs Rolling Stones zombies script, please. Or East Coast rapper zombies vs West Coast rapper zombies if you want to be more timely. I could actually see somebody making that one. (Pay me if you do, just don’t put my name on it.)

  101. Q: What do you think about fast zombies — the kind we see in video games and movies like 28 Days Later?

    A: Well, I took a big swipe at them in this film: There’s a running gag in the movie that dead things don’t move fast. Partially, it’s a matter of taste. I remember Christopher Lee’s mummy movies where there was this big old lumbering thing that was just walking towards you and you could blow it full of holes but it would keep coming. And in the original Halloween, Michael Meyers never ran, he just sort of calmly walked across the lawn or across the room. To me, that’s scarier: this inexorable thing coming at you and you can’t figure out how to stop it. Aside from that, I do have rules in my head of what’s logical and what’s not. I don’t think zombies can run. Their ankles would snap! And they haven’t yet taken out memberships to Curves.


  102. What about Treat Williams in DEAD HEAT? He counts as a zombie right? He was dead and rotting but moving around because he wanted to solve his own murder. He also defies the belief that zombies can’t have personality. He could still talk and make jokes and drive cars. It wasn’t a stand out personality, but I would say he did have a personality.

    I know zombie animals are a big controversey and Joe Piscapo also fought a zombie pig in DEAD HEAT. So maybe that movie breaks too many rules.

  103. Finally, a DEAD HEAT reference. That movie was a regular feature of late, late night television 15 years ago. I must have seen it 10 times. I don’t particularly like the film, but it’s difficult to turn off once it’s on. I have the same problem with ENEMY OF THE STATE.

    My favorite not-quite-a-zombie: Griffin Dunne in AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON. In second place would be Bob Dole in ELECTION CAMPAIGN 1996.

  104. I’ve pretty much stayed out of this conversation because I haven’t seen [REC] yet, despite owning it since the import hit Ye Olde Porne Shoppe several months ago, but now that we’re on Dead Heat, I can’t stop myself from chiming in.

    I love Dead Heat.

    Um, that’s pretty much all I got.

  105. “You are under arrest. You have the right to remain disgusting.”

  106. Best use of the undead in a not quite zombie movie? Corpse Bride. There, I said it.

  107. Jareth — yeah, that sort of thing would definitely be interesting. Didn’t you post that bit about “Ted the Caver” awhile back? The possibilities of online horror are only beginning to be explored, but its a brand new full of potential for clever people.

    As for the fast/slow zombie debate, I think they can both be useful, depending on what you want. Fast Zombies are great for panic and chase scenes. Slow zombies, though, have that great sense of dread and hopelessness associated with them. You can outrun them, but where are you going to go? You can kill them, but you can’t kill ALL of them. And everyone who you love who is killed will simply join them. That’s the genius of the DEAD series (excluding the remake, to some degree). Slow zombies are scary like a force of nature is scary; something so vast and overwhelming and horrible that fighting against it seems pointless. Slow ones don’t chase well, but a vast sea of zombies is a good reason to panic, so I’d argue that unless you have a great chasing setpiece (like the one at the start of 28 WEEKS LATER) slow zombies ought to be reconsidered.

    and e poc, I think you’re a little hard on SESSION 9. Its low budget, but I think the acting, writing, and camerawork are all at least quite professional. I find it a fairly classy effort, and if there are a few WTF moments in there, I attribute it to the unstable mental state of the characters we’re experiencing the story trhough, not the incompetence of the filmmakers (Brad Anderson has, in fact, gone on to direct some other pretty great mystery/ thrillers like TRANSPIBERIAN and THE MACHINST).

  108. Mr. Subtlety – the Ted the Caver post wasn’t me, but I’ve probably rattled on in other threads about the potential the internet has to house interesting horror concepts, or, for that matter, any experimental film. David Lynch has fitfully put experimental short films on his web site, “Rabbits” being the most famous. Eventually the rabbit characters ended up in INLAND EMPIRE.

    Now that I think about it, PARANORMAL ACTIVITY is probably far better suited to a simple live feed (a la Big Brother) than [REC]. Many of the problems with tone and pacing on PARANORMAL ACTIVITY could have been solved if it was spread out over a period of weeks. Even if the concept wasn’t actually performed live, the concept might have benefitted from a serialized setup.

  109. I have to join Mr. Subtlety in defending Session 9. It’s a well-made film, very atmospheric and creepy.

    And what’s wrong with the acting? By horror standards, it’s Oscar-level.

  110. As many of us here , I’m obviously in a Horror mood : I’ve just finished World War Z ( the zombie book from Mel Brook’s son , Max ) and I’m reading his first book , I’m playing some old school Castlevania and I’m watching lots of horror movies from the beginning of October . I’m currently watching monster movies from the Universal and Hammer catalog , but I wanted to start the “October Horror Spectacular” with the funny ones : Evil Dead Trilogy , Return of the Living Dead and the fantastic Dead Heat . Dead Heat is just full of crazy shit , one of those movies like Braindead , where you can’t believe what you’re watching and how much fun they’re having filming it . Dead Heat has it all : zombies , undead cops , undead ducks , undead pigs , undead cows , crazy scientists , flipping cars , buddy cop action , Treat Williams and Vincent Price. I love that shit .

  111. What I like most about SESSION 9 is that the writers seemed really in the idea of the old hospital as real presense, much in the way that Kubrick was in THE SHINING.

    You could probably argue that the ending was a bit contrived, but I’ll forgive a film some contrivances if the atmosphere is effective.

  112. That should read: the writers seemed really INVESTED in the idea …

  113. i disagree that someone who didn’t like REC couldn’t enjoy Paranormal Activity. i watched it last night, and i’m impressed. pretty freaky shit.

  114. jareth –

    Since we have turned a discussion on REC into a forum for everything else, and you seem to share my fondness for Session 9, I was curious as to your thoughts on Mothman Prophecies. Some common thematic elements shared with Session 9, I feel.

  115. frankbooth-“I’m fine with the 28 zombies, because they AREN’T ZOMBIES. They’re not dead. Like Romero said, you fall apart when you die, you don’t become more athletic. If a movie features running “infected,” fine, but the headshot rule should not apply. You should be able to kill them by normal means, because THEY’RE NOT ZOMBIES. Play by George’s rules or don’t, you can’t have it both ways.”
    The thing about that though is that the Night of the Living Dead “zombies” don’t fall apart, and I remember the very first one in the movie being pretty fast for a slow one. He didn’t have much trouble keeping up with Barbara and he even uses a rock to bash someone’s head in. Pretty different from what we think of as zombies, and Romero’s even said about the first one that he never referred to them as Zombies, but “ghouls”.

  116. No need to defend Session 9 to me – I liked it quite a bit. At the same time, it seems like a cop-out to let the filmmakers off the hook for the movie’s incomprehensibility by noting that one of their characters was in some (incomprehensible) way psychologically unstable. I don’t think we’re ever led to believe that what we’re seeing is that character’s perspective on the events, either, so I don’t think some sort of unreliable narrator excuse makes any sense. Basically, it’s an enjoyable film both despite and because of the fact that secondary to being scary/creepy, it’s goal seems to be confusion and nonsense.

  117. Hey Jareth and Subtlety, just as an FYI, I was the one who posted the Ted the Caver link. I actually posted two that night, but the second probably got lost in the shuffle. You might even enjoy it even more, because the writer blends in text messages and chatrooms, as well as the website. Creepy stuff.


    I’m really loving this thread, but have had almost no time to post this week. i have to type fast, because I’m almost out the door; please forgive any big errors that may crop in.

    I did want to say—if it’s not too late—that I’ve been interested in the whole “demon as virus” thing for a while now. As ridiculous as it sounds, it always brought to mind Descartes’ theory on the pineal gland.

    Now bear with me, it won’t take long.

    In a nutshell, philosophers since antiquity have been kicking around the idea that the soul has to be somewhere in the body. The dilemma was your classic catch 22; the soul, by definition, cannot be a physical manifestation. It is a spiritual thing, and therefore undetectable. The conundrum becomes; can you ever really detect the soul in the living body, because if you think you have, then have you really found the soul—or just a new extension of the body, previously undiscovered, thereby leaving the soul still unfounded. After all, the soul is not physical, and therefore should be impossible to detect using the scientific method.

    Now to bring it home; whenever a horror movie talks about a spiritual—or in this case demonic—thing in relation to a virus I remember this argument. To me the possession, even if it has the trappings of a viral pathology, is never really gonna be “just a virus.” In fact, I think this sort of thing causes problems for the writer/creator. I’ll use my other favorite, Star Wars, to illustrate. Up until the prequels the Force has been this indistinct, intangible thing out there, somewhere beyond hyperspace. Then, in the first new movie, its a bunch of cells in the body. Nevermind what Descartes would say about these mitochlorine or however the fuck you spell them (and believe me, that guy is a fiend for Star Wars—especially Chewbecca), there’s the problem that now you have a physical, real world cause for the Jedi. Which had every fan boy with a pulse thinking “wait, so what if i get a bunch of this stuff, and shoot it into me—bang, instant Jedi.” Which, I think you’ll agree, is kinda stupid.

    Now, to bring it back around. The demon as virus thing has the same kind of problem, and to address it I’m gonna have to declare spoilers, because it involves Rec 2.

    Got it gang, spoilers!

    Okay, so in the new movie a priest goes into the apartment with a SWAT team. His mission? To get blood from the ultra thin Patient Zero from Rec. He says they can synthesize an antidote from her blood. Now, do you see the problem? Either it’s a virus, whereby it falls into the realm of science, and can be treated empirically, or it’s spiritual, and thus requires an exorcism, something we know didn’t work too well from the first movie. I have a hard time letting the movie get it’s cake and eat it too. it’s either one, or the other.

    Hope this makes sense, and check out Dionaea House; you might like it more than the last One Mr. S!

  118. P.S.

    CallMeKermit and Mr. M: I have good news. Rec 2 involves a SWAT team going into the building 15 minutes after the end of Rec. And guess what? Each member has a herlmet cam, ala Aliens.

    Brothers, start rejoicing.

  119. MDM – Hey, now that’s kind of cool, comparing SESSION 9 to MOTHMAN PROPHECIES. I hadn’t thought of that. There’s certainly something contemplative about both films, something sombre, and care is taken in setting up the mood in which the scares occur. And I like both films more than critics and audiences seemed to. They’re nowhere near my favorites, like SUICIDE CIRCLE or PULSE, but I’ll defend them.

    MOTHMAN probably took more abuse than SESSION 9; I don’t know how much of that was part of the Richard Gere backlash. I’m a big pushover for X-FILES and especially MILLENNIUM, so MOTHMAN fits in neatly with that stuff. Maybe films like DONNIE DARKO are similar but more daring stylistically, but for all its traditionalism, and its big loud ending, I thought MOTHMAN was effective. Most importantly, both films treated the relationships between the characters in an adult manner, with complexity and nuance. For my money, that goes a long way in a genre flick.

    Both films don’t really seem to give a fuck about a lot of the Hollywood bullshit that so often sinks these films: romantic contrivances, gender stereotypes, wacky sidekicks, dumb action. They’re both admirable for that alone.

    On the down side, I will say that I found both films a bit too tidy and convenient in their plotting. MOTHMAN in particular had a bit of polish to it, where I think some grit would have helped. I thought Gere was fine, but maybe a less recognizable face would have helped. Or Lance Henrickson. I love that guy.

    Bad Seed: Thanks for the link; I was trying to find it earlier. I’ll probably comment on it once I’ve kicked around a bit over there.

    You know what – I haven’t seen any of those STAR WARS prequels. But I know about the jedi blood disease that you describe, as well as numerous other things that they’re still fighting about over at AICN. I tend to take the view of [REC] that was articulated upthread by “Greg” – that the people are in fact infected by a disease, but that their behaviour was initially reported as “possessions.” But if [REC] turns out to be proposing something like what you describe, I’d have to say that those sorts of things often strain my suspension of disbelief.

    You’ve seen [REC]2 so you know way more than I do, and maybe I’m totally wrong – I didn’t even read your spoilers. I want to go into [REC]2 fresh; surprise might be all that movie has going for it. Well, that and helmet cameras.

  120. Stu,

    The NOTLD zombies were “fresh.” You’ll notice they become more and more decrepit as the trilogy goes on. By DOTD, they’re positively rancid. They should be — it’s 1985 and the senior zombies have been undead since 1968! (That’s one thing about Day — you can almost smell the putrefaction as you watch it. It’s got a really oppressive atmosphere.)

    But anyway, yeah, it’s silly to even be having this argument. Like most horror premises, it becomes more and more ridiculous as you think it through. Where did all these dead people come from? Are they digging themselves up out of the ground? No, they’re the “freshly-dead.” But how many people die on any given day? Think about it: shouldn’t the vast majority of them be old people? Who dies in the greatest numbers, outside of a war zone? The elderly. I never see that point raised. (And I’m really, really surprised that no one has played up this angle to make a generation-gap zombie movie. The old devouring the young.)

    So yeah, we’re arguing about something ludicrous. But that’s just the kind of people we are.

    My point was, either stick to Romero’s rules (as vague and inconsistent as they may be) or follow Boyle’s. But it doesn’t make sense to have limber, fast zombies that can still only be killed by a shot to the brain. Internal logic-wise, that is.

    Now, possessed zombies…that’s another story. You could make up a completely new set of rules. I could see them tearing around like bats out of hell — they got demons in ’em!

  121. Bad Seed : Yeah , I’ve seen the trailer for REC 2 , and it looks pretty fucking sweet . I’ve only seen Quarantine , as I said before , but I will see the original , and I will keep an eye on its sequel . SPOILERS : But I did recognize in the REC 2 trailer a “zombie” dressed like a firefighter , like a character from the remake , so at least , even with some differences , there’s a little continuity .

    Also , good points on the demon/virus and Force/whateverthefuck parallel . I like the Star Wars movies ( even something on every sequel is good in my book ) , but I’m not a fanatic . When I think of great Sci-Fi the first words in my head are Aliens and Thing , not Star , Wars or Trek . That shit with the force-blood-cells annoyed me a little , yes , but not to the point of hating everything in the prequels.Same thing with the Zombies . I grew up with 3 kinds of zombies : Voodoo , Romero and O’Bannon ( the funny zombies from Return of the Living Dead ). I’ve got some problems with running-zombies and rabid-zombies , and I think the demon/virus angle is a bit difficult to swallow , but , hey , at least they’re trying to add new things or do their own thing , instead of rebooting the Texas Chainsaw Massacre every year ! I just think about it as a new spin on an old standard .

  122. i am firmly in the slow zombies camp. someone above was wondering whether it was a generational thing. i wonder if you looked at the people who prefer slow zombies, if to a large degree they would correspond to the people who were pro-bush (vaginal) on the porky’s thread (with the fast zombies crowd being pro-shaved).

    food for thought.

    or not.

  123. REC 2 = Demons 3. Crazy and funny stuff.

  124. But yes, i´m spanish and i think Cloverfield is better than REC.

  125. Holy shit, let me take this moment to say how much I like MOTHMAN PROPHECIES. It’s a great, grim, adult, atmospheric, slow-burn which is just brimming with crazy under the surface. I’ll second Jareth’s point that it’s like a excellent long episode of the X-Files, with the slight downside of being mildly but constantly annoyed that you’re watching Richard Gere. His acting is fine, and he even looks kind of like John Keel, but it’s hard not to watch him and remember who he is and for his part he seems a little self-conscious about it too. Just a little bit of a bringdown in a movie I otherwise love giddily. Oh, and an awesome poster, t’boot, which miraculously made it to the DVD box instead of the expected “giant floating head” approach. (Ah nuts, now I’m looking at Amazon and it seems they reissued the DVD with the floating heads, exactly as I feared. Well, at least my original pressing still has the rorsarch version). But yeah, if you’re a fan of “nightmare horror” like I am, MOTHMAN’S indespensible.

    Oh, and a minor but consequential point about “Midichlorians” — if you listen closely to how Qui-Gon describes them (and I did, believe you me) the score is that midichlorians are not the same as the force, they’re the mechanism in the body which allows some people to physically utilize the force. So the Force still exists as an energy feel that surrounds us, penetrates us, etc. Isn’t this just another variation of Bad Seed’s “Pineal Gland” paradox? Well, maybe, maybe not. If a demon needs a body to possess, it could potentiall make sense that it uses a specific part of the body in order to effect its control. With the midichlorian approach, you get to keep the magic separate and outside the body, while still having a physical link which is biological in nature. Adding this extra step seems unnecessary, but it doesn’t exactly displace the supernatural aspects of demons/the force, either (in the demon analogy, the demon virus is the mechanism by which a supernatual force gains control of a human body, like the midichlorians). Unweildy, perhaps, but I could live with it.

  126. I liked MOTHMAN, but that last minute, where they spell out the number of people in the water, that just irritated the living shit outta me. It was like a friend that took you out on a day trip, bought you lunch, laughed at your jokes – the weather was nice and you got some beer and say out in the park and looked at the clouds drifting past, and you think, “You know what, life is pretty good if you got good friends.” They drop you at your house, you turn back to say thank-you one last time and see that they’re giving you the finger and holding up a piece of paper with ‘RETARD’ mis-spelt on it.

  127. Jam – My reaction to the ending of MOTHMAN wasn’t quite as strong as yours, but that’s pretty much what I was trying to say in my clumsy way earlier. Nice analogy, by the way: the “retard” sign is hilarious.

    Mr. Subtlety – Richard Gere didn’t bother me, but, like I said, Lance Henricksen would have been way better. It might have been fun to see Henricksen skronking the “Will & Grace” girl in a closet. Even better if the real estate agent was played by Meagan Gallagher.

    I think I was old enough at the time MOTHMAN came out to know that certain projects only get funded if the producers can bank on a star. I think I remember Gere mentioning that he championed this particular film, so I’m inclined to credit him with it ever getting made.

    On MOTHMAN, Ebert wrote: “It’s lazy for a movie to avoid solving one problem by trying to distract us with the solution to another” and “The Mothman is singularly ineffective as a threat because it is only vaguely glimpsed, has no nature we can understand, doesn’t operate under rules that the story can focus on, and seems to be involved in space-time shifts far beyond its presumed focus.” It’s for these exact reasons that I like the film.

  128. Demons from 1985 I remember fondly from my youth.

    Especially the Accept song “Fast as a Shark”

  129. DEMONS is amazing. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a better, more entertaining combination of low-budget B-movie accidental comedy and low-budget B-movie special-effects-extravaganza awesomeness. I must have seen it 10 times now, it never ceases to delight me.

  130. Bad Seed: Finally made my way through the dionaea-house web site. It owes a lot to Danielewski’s “House of Leaves,” but it’s an entertaining read. The various links are handled really well. It’s quite convincing. This is exactly the kind of thing the internet has so much potential for. It’s such a shame that so much space online is used to sell crap or to hook up.

    One funny thing about dionaea-house: that line THE DOOR IS OPEN reminded me of Demon Dave de Falco and the DOOR TO PURE EVIL that he is supposed to be guarding. Maybe one day Demon dave will get back to us about that. It would be nice to know how he’s being making out with all that PURE EVIL all this time.

    Going to go look at the Ted the Caver now.

  131. Typing from my phone, so I gotta make it brief. Glad you liked the story Jareth. It was written by a Hollywood screenwriter, and the story goes that he kept on going until he got a movie deal. Once that got locked in he stopped, and that’s why the story fizzles at the end.

    On the fast vs. slow zombies is always wondered if you could use rigor Mortis to explain it; wiki answers says it takes 3 to 12 hours to set in, so maybe the fresh kills comeback pretty much as limber as they were prechomp, and slowly lock up.

    Of course, wikianswers also says that rigor Mortis disappears after 72 hours. Which means they should loosen up again, which doesn’t seem right. Anyone else out there know much on this subject?

    Mr. S, I can’t get into the whole metaphysics of the argument now, but wanted to say that I agree with your assessment. However, when you look at it that way, it’s less supernatural and more science fiction. In other words, you’re really discovering a new phenomenon using the scientific method, which has all kinds of implications when talking about demons.

    Oh, and “Demons”=awesome. Part 2 is good too.

  132. Damn that’s a long talkback! Ok Vern, I think what happened was you saw this too close to District 9, and it was fakumentary overload. I saw it just last night and I thought it was really good. Maybe speking spanish helped? I don’t know it just had a lot of awesome scares for me and the whole group I saw it with loved it. District 9, I don’t know, I kinda liked it but I kept thinking of Michael Scott when you hate the character the most, that can’t help. I think the style worked much better here (on Rec). I think you should really see the 08 British horror film The Children, i thought it would stink, turned out to be a lot of scary gross fun. Kids are fucked up. Between this and Rec i’m not having any. So I really recommend you see that one. No handycams in that one. Also Trick ‘R Treat is really good, just not scary at all. Also I’m rambling. If any of my points were made before in this talkback sorry, I didn’t read any of all that, I grew old just scrolling down.

  133. In my opinion, I think the fast and slow theory can be explained by what kind of zombie disease they have. The zombie plague usually starts from some rare disease, but who is to say that this disease isn’t mixed up with some other types of forms?

    In recent movies and remakes you have the zombie disease and AIDS (These zombies have symptoms that start to show with rotting, but are still active just enough to spread their disease). The zombies in the 28 days/weeks movies may not have full blown AIDS, but are definitely HIV positive along with a severe case of pink eye (Symptoms of the aids don’t occur, but are still sick in someway and can spread the disease just the same). In the movies of old, you have a combination of zombies having both AIDS and cancer (These zombies look more like corpses and are too weak to even run, despite their urges). In I Am Legend, you have zombie cancer but with hopes of a cure (along with a rare case of vitiligo).

    I’m not sure if this was mentioned before during the slow vs fast zombies discussion (which I missed a few years back) but what are your guys’ thoughts about zombies having personality?

    For me, I’ve got nothing against it. Though theres something about Land of the Dead that bugged me for some reason that can’t be explained but might be because of that reason. I still do look forward to watching movies like Fido, the Revenant, and the previously mentioned Dead Heat. Maybe its just different in movies, but having one zombie with personality seems ok as compared to a whole group of protesting ones in my opinion. But you know, we’d have to be talkin’ about one charming motherfuckin’ zombie. I mean he’d have to be ten times more charmin’ than that Bub from Day of the Dead.

    Bub being witness to a porno movie gone bad sure sounds like a great idea. I don’t know how he’d get there, but if in some way that were possible I hope he makes it the filming of Pornormal Activititties. The guy does know how to shoot though thats for sure, who knows he might even be the next barry sonnenfield when it comes to zombie porn.

  134. Mothman had Richard Gere, so i didn’t like it.
    can’t back Paranormal Activity enough though. everyone should check it out (the screener version online, theatrical has a lame-o hollywood ending).

  135. Zombies with personalities: I like when the remnants of a personality are slipping away from the zombie, when the manual skills and ability to reason are getting clumsy and less human. I think there’s a kind of small tragedy in that.

    But for full-blown zombie personality, I guess I prefer Bub to the DEAD HEAT guys. I’m having difficulty thinking of other examples.

  136. In my opinion dionaea-house.com is better than House of Leaves.

  137. PARANORMAL ACTIVITY is the most fucking boring horror film I’ve ever seen. A thousand times worse than BLAIR WITCH. Let’s talk, have some footage of nothing while we sleep, then wake up and talk about it again. The only suspense is waiting for something to fucking happen. Broad had big cans though.

  138. Not sure which one you saw, but the one I saw was pretty disappointing too. It was a ghost hunters episode made at home and the cops got involved so they had to shut it down. Horrible ending. But if its as good as they say, then I might have to rewatch it again just to see what would happened had it not been canceled.

  139. Yo Vern, with this one you sound a bit like a killjoy. I hated Blar Witch, found it simply boring as hell and that documentary style is always questionable, but I found REC a really damn good, one of the best horror flicks in recent times.

  140. Jst watched Paranormal Activity. Meh. It was the one with the original ending too wild for for theaters. AKA-The boring, 8 minute shot of basically, nothing.

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