A TV crew follow a team of fire-fighters into an apartment block, in Jaume Balagueró and Paco Plaza’s found-footage horror movie. It’s not giving too much away to say that it’s not just a cat stuck up a chimney.
I desperately wanted this film to scare me – it’s Spanish, there are zombies and it has a reputation for being terrifying. So it’s disappointing to find that [Rec] is just another found-footage film – and not even the only one of 2007 to feature zombies, thanks to George A. Romero’s even more disappointing Diary of the Dead. Maybe it would work in a cinema, as a roller-coaster ride of zombie action – the tagline “Experience Fear” certainly sounds like that of a theme park attraction. But there’s not even that much zombie fun, as most of the film’s brief 78-minute running time is given over to arguing. Yes, the same can be said for The Blair Witch Project, but this is 8 years later and about 8% as effective.
As in most found-footage films, the only reason the characters have to continue filming the action is that they’re unbelievably annoying individuals who don’t care about the people begging them to turn off the camera, which begs the question of why we should care about them. Instead of characters, we get a forgettable smorgasbord of zombie-fodder, who are killed off one by one with the monotonous regularity of the speaking clock. Instead of smartly rendered suspense, we get the tired gimmick of found-footage, the same year as Paranormal Activity and already feeling old. Instead of first-person-shooter-style zombie madness, we get hysterical residents shouting about the logistics of their apartment building.
A tower block is potentially the ideal location for a genre movie, but this has none of Dredd‘s explosive action or Shivers’ allegorical depth – unless the whole thing is a bad joke about not knowing your neighbours. So in the absence of any interesting substance or creepy atmosphere, this film might have worked as a B-movie splatter-fest or The Raid with zombies – a floor-by-floor fight through unrelenting waves of the undead. But we get neither the Night of the Living Dead intelligence nor the Evil Dead fun, we just get some awful people in a place dying in order before it ends lazily and predictably – with an American remake and countless sequels. Without Blair Witch‘s originality or Troll Hunter’s creativity, [Rec] is just another found-footage movie, which hides its lack of surprises, plot and imagination behind a hand-held camera.