DVD Review: [Rec]

Late at night, a reality TV crew traipse through a fire station, bored out of their minds and hoping for action. They get it - at least, on a small scale. Neighbours have reported an elderly woman screaming in her apartment, presumed trapped. Nothing too difficult to deal with. Accompanied by the TV crew and two surly police officers, the firemen bust down the door and find the woman inside to be both disturbed and dangerous. After she bites one of the cops, everyone beats a hasty retreat - only to find that the authorities have sealed off the whole apartment building. What is this, some kind of horror film?

As with The Host (which I reviewed here), Spanish POV horror film [Rec] is another movie that has significant hype surrounding it, hype that is largely justified.  It's not, as one review blurb on the cover overstates, the best film of the year, nor is it in any way ground-breaking.  Everything in [Rec] has been done before.  But I think that if you distil each of those elements down and look at its heritage, you'll see that [Rec] actually does these things better than previous horror movies, and incorporates them nicely into a coherent and straightforward whole.

Straightforward is a pretty good term to use to describe [Rec]. At an hour and a quarter in length, there's little beating about the bush, which leaves the characterisation broad and occasionally stereotypical, but allows you no respite from the fast pace. That's not to say that the film doesn't take every opportunity to cram in tense atmosphere and sinister foreshadowing. Much of the middle portion of the film is spent fostering a sense that the characters are just about staying on top of things - before, naturally, this fa├žade dissolves into frantic and bloody chaos.

I mentioned The Host earlier. While that film has gone on to become one of my all time favourites, I'm not sure I'll be saying the same thing about [Rec] in a year's time, for the simple reason that I don't actually like being scared all that much. The Host wraps up a lot of different things into one big monster movie bundle, but [Rec] is quite simply an out-and-out horror film. Every second of its tightly-packed running time is used to suck you in, fill you full of foreboding and then shock you. If you're anything like me, your heart will be pounding even in the apparently safer scenes. If you have a stronger constitution you should absolutely run out right now and buy this film. If you don't, well... maybe you should anyway.

*Helpful hint: if you're in the US, the distributors won't let you see this until after the American remake has been shown in cinemas.

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