Angela is a television news reporter host of a segment called When You’re Asleep. Angela and her camera man, Pablo, film people doing their jobs in the city while most of the inhabitants are sleeping. On this particular night, Angela and Pablo will be filming a group of firefighters at their station and on any calls they may have to go on. After experiencing a bit of a fireman’s typical night – nights of waiting, eating, sleeping and games of basketball – the station finally gets a call from a nearby apartment building, much to Angela’s relief. Residents have reported that an elderly shut-in is locked in her apartment and is screaming like a banshee. When the firemen get to the location, with Angela and Pablo in tow, they find that the police are also there and the apartment buildings residents are all huddled on the ground floor foyer.
With Angela reporting on the events as they transpire, and Pablo continually filming, the situation turns from mundane to hellish in the blink of an eye. It gets even worse when everyone in the building, including the police and firemen who initially answered the call, are all quarantined inside the building. Any attempt to escape would mean certain death from the military who are now outside guarding the building, but staying inside could mean an even worse fate. Angela, Pablo, and the other residents of the apartment building must try and survive their ordeal and ultimately find a way out. And so begins REC. A roller coaster ride of a movie, if the roller coaster consisted only of a slow, 30 minute ride up a hill and then proceeded into a 40 minute, break-neck free fall.
Directed by Jaume Balageuro and Paco PlazaIn, REC is a white-knuckler filmed in the same voyeuristic style as films such as Blair Witch Project. It is of the “found footage” variety that some of you love and some of you loathe. When done correctly, as seen in Cloverfield, this style of filmmaking can often enhance the viewing experience. When done incorrectly ( see The St. Francisville Experiment and The PoughKeepsie Tapes for examples) it can make a painful film even moreso. Luckily REC is in the former category and delivers the goods, easily one of the better horror films to use the cinéma-vérité technique to date. With outstanding performances by the cast and the lack of a soundtrack, the entire film achieves it’s goal of making the viewing personal and putting you there with these people and their plight. Whether the camera is shaky, out of focus, or on the floor, the style and atmosphere created make everything seem very realistic and necessary.
It also helps that unlike other films that attempt this free style type of filming, REC never feels too much like any of the scenes were staged or scripted, avoiding one of the major pitfalls associated with this type of film even though there are times in which it feels like you are being led through a haunted house by a guide. There is blood in the film, but it is not a splatter-fest. The film is more effective portraying the escalating terror instead of trying to use any elaborate gore effects to achieve it’s goal.
The way the character of Pablo handles the camera also helps sell this film as in the beginning, it is deliberate, methodical and familiar with any type of documentary or news report. But the more the film progresses, the more things spiral completely out of control, the camera works echoes it’s handler. It is now shaky, frenzied. It becomes a very integral part of the movie. It provides light when there is none. When that fails? It has nightvision. While the film is laden with tension and a few “jump scares” it’s the last 5 minutes that are spectacularly creepy and unnerving. It is also what helps thrust this already competent horror movie into the top tiers of horror films. The ending is too creepy for viewers to forget easily.