Directed by: Jaume Balagueró, Paco Plaza
Written by: Jaume Balagueró, Luiso Berdejo, Paco Plaza
Starring: Carlos Lasarte, Carlos Vicente, Claudia Silva, David Vert, Ferran Terraza, Jorge-Yamam Serrano, Manuela Velasco, Maria Lanau, Pablo Rosso, Vicente Gil
TV reporter Angela Vidal and her cameraman Pablo are shooting an episode of While You’re Asleep, a programme highlighting the jobs done by others whilst the city sleeps. For this episode, they’re accompanying a firecrew for the night, seeing how they eat, sleep and work at the station and attending any callouts they may receive. The first of the night is also the last when they get called to an apartment building in the centre of Barcelona. Angela and Pablo accompany firemen, Manu and Alex, as they attempt to rescue an old woman who’s fallen in her flat. With screams coming from the apartment, her worried neighbours fear she is trapped and called the fire service in the hope that they may help. With two police officers also in attendance, the emergency crews attempt to help the confused lady but when one of the police officers is wounded badly in the rescue attempt, the emergency crew, TV team and the residents are horrified to find that the building has been sealed off on Government health advice and they’re trapped inside with a man in desperate need of healthcare. What exactly is going on?
14 years after its original release, with numerous sequels and after having been remade by the American market as Quarantine, Spanish found footage zombie horror [Rec] receives the Arrow Video Blu-Ray treatment in this feature-packed release.
Putting a unique spin on the zombie genre, [Rec] captivates viewers by bringing them into the claustrophobic setting through the camera lens of Pablo. Witnessing the calm before the storm, as Pablo and Angela gather footage at the fire station for their television programme, puts viewers at ease and comfort with their method of shooting. The style allows the audience to invest in the idea that we’re watching a genuine documentary and events are unfolding in real time so when a routine callout turns sour, we’re genuinely on tenterhooks about what will happen next with fear for the survival of the characters we’ve grown to know.
Even having seen the film multiple times over the years, it’s one of those where you still question what will happen next, like somehow the events will change with each viewing. It sets your pulse racing and always makes me jump out of my seat with THAT scene… yeah, you know which one I mean. With the emergency officials outside, taping and sealing the building off from the outside world, the tension inside the building intensifies as the reason to the building’s quarantine is revealed. It’s frightening, frenzied and heart-thumping material, with what feels like real people we can relate to that serves to only make the events that transpire that much worse. Seeing it all from the point of view of Pablo’s camera means we feel the fear they’re experiencing and the rampant attacks that unfold leave little margin for error in a bid for survival.
If you’ve never seen [Rec] then I can’t recommend it enough. The method the film uses felt fresh and unique when it hit the scene, whilst it obviously wasn’t the first to employ it. However, this has been used so much since that maybe it doesn’t have quite the same effect as it did had you watched it at the time of release back in 2007, but I still think it’s head and shoulders above the rest. The film excels by using a cast of unknowns, except for Manuela Velasco, an experienced TV reporter, as Angela Vidal to give it the credibility it needed as a recording for a documentary/TV programme. This coupled with the unedited style of film shooting is, for me, what brings the viewer closer to the action. We’re not simply a viewer sat on our sofa watching a fictitious film. We’re right there in the building with Angela, Pablo, Manu and Alex, experiencing what they are for the very first time, along with the frightened residents who also feel very real. We have the elderly couple who’ve married that long all they do is disagree and bicker; a mother and her her young daughter who’s husband has returned from the pharmacy but is trapped outside; an Japanese family of three generations; a cravat-wearing, elder male hairdresser, and a hospital intern. Everyone is scared and clueless as to what’s going on and a young policeman inside the building is trying his best to keep everyone under calm and under control. With the fear setting in, survival is on everyone’s minds and when it comes apparent that the danger is inside the building, then it’s every man and woman for themselves!
[Rec] is probably my favourite zombie horror and each time I watch it it injects that sense of uneasiness and panic from witnessing something first-hand. The horror is sudden and frantic at times, leaving you gasping for air with its relentless onslaught, especially when you realise that this is it – you have to fight for your life. With tremendous makeup FX coupled with the claustrophobic apartment block and stairwell setting, the horror of [Rec] slowly intensifies until its creepy climax. I’ll admit, I’m not exactly sold on the final scenes of he film, but it doesn’t do any harm to the terrific buildup.
If you’re looking for a threatening zombie flick that actually feels part of reality and not some over-the-top work of fiction, then this is the one to check out.
Arrow Video has given [Rec] a tantalising, high definition Blu-Ray release for fans of the film, chock full of extras, some of which are new and some from previous releases. The disc includes:
Theatrical (24fps) and Production (25fps) versions of the film
Archival commentary with the directors Jaume Balaguero and Paco Plaza in Spanish language with English subtitles.
New exclusive commentary with film historian and film critic Alexandra Heller-Nicholas, who’s also the author of Found Footage Horror: Fear and the Appearance of Reality.
The Making of [Rec] – A 40 minute Making Of documentary in Spanish with English subtitles. The directors discuss their process, from the idea of the movie to the shoot of the film, the decision on the choice of actors and more. We’re also treated to behind the scenes footage of the shoot. It’s also great to learn a bit more about the makeup special effects of the film as in the actual film, due to light or the frantic use of camera, it’s hard to appreciate the stellar work done on the infected and the injured.
Interview with the Directors – a 28 minute archival interview with Balaguero and Plaza which was originally recorded for the French release of the film. The aforementioned features cover similar ground as to this interview.
How To Make A Horror Movie – A 30 minute archival featurette which provides a great introduction on how to make a short horror film with Balaguero and Plaza providing step-by-step instructions. This has the directors speaking in French but has English subtitles. I’m guessing this special feature was also for the French release. They provide some great points whilst having fun putting it into practice within the office they’re working from and those they work with.
The Fantastic Four – An 18 minute panel with Balaguero, Plaza and Spanish new wave horror directors, Gonzalo Lopez-Gallego and Juan Antonio Bayona. The questions are asked in French, the responses in Spanish but all are subtitled in English for viewers. The four discuss Spanish/European genre cinema and styles, and how they feel that has impacted their own filmmaking styles.
Abuelitos (Grandparents) – Paco Plaza’s award-winning short film he created in 1998. This 15 minute film is incredibly creepy, set in what looks like an abandoned hospital facility.
Behind The Scenes – A fantastic addition to the disc is this series of behind-the-scenes footage of some of [Rec]’s iconic scenes, including Mrs Izquierdo’s attack in her apartment (7min), Evacuate The Wounded Policeman (3min), Climb To Hell (the final stair chase scene – 5min) and Confidences by Manuela Valesco (12min) in which Manuela talks about being hired for the role of Angela and her experiences on shoot, along with behind-the-scenes footage. As this was recorded after the shoot, it was interested to see what she thought would happen to the film and her pleasant surprise to the public’s reaction and appreciation for the film.
Casting – A series of casting videos for Claudia Silva (Jennifer), Ferran Terraza and Carlos Lasarte (Manu and Cesar), Vicente Gil (Policeman), Ferran Terraza and Jorge-Yamam Serrano (Manu and Young Policeman), Kao Chen Min (Japanese Man) and Akemi Goto (Japanese Woman). It’s pretty fun seeing young Claudia audition for her role as Jennifer and asked to act out ‘scary’. Some of the others show cast members acting out certain scenes together as part of their casting.
Interviews – Interviews with cinematographer Pablo Rosso (20 mins), sound designer Oriol Tarrago (18 mins) and the sound department’s Xavier Mas (8 mins). All three share their experience on the film and how they were approached for it in the first place, with their interview videos spliced with behind-the-scenes shots of the movie.
Deleted and Extended Scenes – a series of seven scenes including The Fire Station: Redux, Service Plan, What The Neighbours Saw, Angela Collapses, Evacuation of Jennifer, Corridor of Nails and The Secret Archive. The Fire Station segment features a series of unseen footage as well as that included in the film. It’s a proper insight into the running of a fire station and what the firefighters get up to there. Seeing as it was shot with real firemen at a real station, much of this is true to life with the actors playing Alex and Manu having been embedded into the crew for a few days. Some of the scenes are those that have been cut from the film but their exclusion hasn’t affected the film in any way as they are a bit extraneous even if, in some cases, they introduce new elements.
Promotional Material – Teaser Trailer, Theatrical Trailer, TV Spots, UK Trailer, UK TV Spot, Key Art Gallery and Image Gallery.