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Blu-Ray Review: ‘Quarantine’ With Jennifer Carpenter Rocks But Forgets Roots

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HollywoodChicago.com Blu-Ray Rating: 3.5/5.0
Blu-Ray Rating: 3.5/5.0

CHICAGO – “Quarantine” leaves this hardcore horror junkie conflicted. The film itself is one of the better genre entries of 2008, a thrill ride that will satisfy nearly everyone who rents or buys it on Blu-Ray. But the special features on the disc omit something unbelievably important and, in doing so, leave a bad taste in my mouth.

You could listen to the entire commentary by writer/director John Erick Dowdle and writer/producer Drew Dowdle and never know that “Quarantine” is a remake of the excellent Spanish film “[REC]” by Jaume Balaguero and Paco Plaza. Conspiracy theorists have written manifestos on why “[REC]” still isn’t available stateside on DVD, but if you can track down an international copy, you should. It’s great.

Quarantine was released by Sony on February 17th, 2009.
Quarantine was released by Sony on February 17th, 2009.
Photo credit: Sony

Like “Cloverfield” or “The Blair Witch Project,” “Quarantine” is a film that looks like it was shot entirely on handheld camera. The set-up is that a news crew, led by the excellent Jennifer Carpenter (“Dexter”), is spending a night at a fire department, chronicling the personalities there and what an average evening is like for the crew.

After a slow start of flirting with the firemen (including Jay Hernandez and Johnathon Schaech) and sliding down the fire pole, the news crew springs into action on a distress call. A woman has been screaming in her apartment. They bust down the door and enter an absolute nightmare.

“Quarantine” is surprisingly effective. Carpenter is consistently engaging and the direction is clever and underrated. The handheld conceit is expertly executed (the shot of the cameraman using his recorder as a weapon is one of my favorite horror movie deaths of the year) and the film is perfectly paced.

I loved how Dowdle takes his time between explosive moments in “Quarantine”. He builds tension through quiet, scared moments and then explodes in mayhem. At the fifty minute mark, when a lot of horror movie directors would have just barreled forward to the climax, “Quarantine” allows for a scene where the residents do an apartment roll call, making sure everyone’s still okay. So many horror movie directors fail to realize that roller coasters don’t work with out the slow, tension-building rises to accompany the falls.

The funny thing about my praise for “Quarantine” is that a lot of it holds true for “[REC]” too, but most people will never get to see that film.

Quarantine was released by Sony on February 17th, 2009.
Quarantine was released by Sony on February 17th, 2009.
Photo credit: Sony

There are dozens of great international films not available on US DVD. It sucks but it’s a fact of life. But having a film be unavailable and having a remake’s creators completely ignore its existence outside of one credit are two different things.

Some of “Quarantine” is shot-for-shot with “[REC]” but the co-writers and director of the remake never acknowledge that on the commentary of their film. Were they put on a gag order by Sony, who are holding even the existence of “[REC]” secret? As the Dowdles comment on their action set-pieces and concept, how could they not want to recognize their inspiration? It’s just weird.

“Quarantine” is a very good horror movie, but if the people who made it, including the studio releasing it, would recognize its roots, I wouldn’t feel so cautious about praising it.

“Quarantine” looks very, very good. A lot of the film takes place in extreme darkness and the colors were always well-defined in 1080p. The sound is perfect in Dolby TrueHD 5.1. I adored the sound design in “Quarantine” with its use of helicopter sounds outside the building and the eerie silence before the chaos inside and it’s been perfectly mixed on the Blu-Ray release. Sony may be leading the way in Blu-Ray audio.

As for special features, once (or if) you get past the odd dismissal of “[REC],” they are actually an interesting collection. The Dowdles seem like nice guys, constantly praising their talented cast and crew. “Anatomy of a Stunt” dissects a particularly complex shot, “Dressing the Infected: Robert Hall’s Make-Up Design” is pretty self-explanatory, as is “Locked In: The Making of Quarantine”.

In a very weak year for horror, “Quarantine” was one of the few bright spots. Now if they would only release “[REC]” in theaters so audiences could see where it all began.

‘Quarantine’ is released by Sony Pictures Home Video and stars Jennifer Carpenter, Jay Hernandez, Johnathon Schaech, Rade Serbedzija, Dania Ramirez, Steve Harris, Columbus Short, and Greg Germann. It was written by John Erick Dowdle & Drew Dowdle and directed by John Erick Dowdle. It was released on February 17th, 2009. It is rated R.

HollywoodChicago.com content director Brian Tallerico

By BRIAN TALLERICO
Content Director
HollywoodChicago.com
brian@hollywoodchicago.com

italkfilm's picture

Great Film

Especially the part when the camera man takes his life into his own hands and uses what is available. You just have to see it . As far as horror movies for 2008, it is Quarantine or Mirrors for best overall.

http://www.italkfilm.com

Anonymous's picture

Quarantine jennifer C from dexer show

She was horrible it seems every movie she plays in she is the annoying one who wants all the attention and she is always acting like a Slut! She starts screaming from the middle of the movie and gets everyone around her killed and then you just lose interest in the movie because all she doing is screaming! I was like dang girl shut up so at least one person can survive! I do not like her acting at all. Some may if they like to hear a screaming hooker.

Anonymous's picture

jennifer carpenter over the top horrible annoying acting

i think my subject says it all.
she ruined the last forty minutes of quarantine for me because of her over the top heaving and screaming.
i lost all interest and went out of my way to comment on her acting right after watching the movie.
im so glad i did not see this in theaters.
i too was wondering why she wasn’t shutting up- it definitely was not the “character” it was the actress. so horribly annoying.

Kal's picture

Jennifer Carpenter - terrible acting when she was screaming

In my case, I popped this Blu-Ray into the player hoping to see a movie that was at least half as good as [REC], which I had seen previously and thought was an incredible and very well-done movie.

Everything was going well until the last 30 minutes of the movie or so. That was about when Jennifer Carpenter went into uber-freak-out mode and, although admittedly I know some women who would probably have acted the same way in real life, her terrible over-emphasis on her character’s squeaky high-pitched annoying screaming and whimpering and whining and shouting really significantly took away from my enjoyment of the end of the movie. If she had been a little more like Manuela Velasco, who played Angela Vidal in [REC], and just TONED IT DOWN a little, I think I would have been able to say that Quarantine was a decent remake of a great and innovative horror movie.

But oh, that’s the second part. The fact that the movie gives HARDLY ANY CREDIT to [REC] and the creative talents behind the movie which Quarantine essentially COPIES SCENE FOR SCENE, except for small details like the body count, the inclusion of the dogs and rats, and the addition of an elevator … oh, and the fact that it’s in English rather than Spanish, just makes me flat out angry. Give credit where credit is due. Be proud of your remake but make sure that people know it’s a remake and don’t steal the intellectual property of innovative writers. (of note, the addition of a dog attack, an elevator and the dynamic it added to running away from the infected, and the actual demonstration of force by the individuals outside the building were all very good additions to the movie)

Between Carpenter’s shrill and horrible scream-fest and the poor credit given to the original movie, I can say that if you folks want to see a scary movie, go find a copy of [REC] on Amazon or something but know that Quarantine is a movie that could have been achieved by the makers of [REC] by adding English dubbing and throwing in some high-pitched American actresses.

Anonymous's picture

Great Movie

Excellent Horror movie! Very claustrophobic and atmospheric. Although the Quarantine is identical remake-copy of Spanish Rec, it is still very good.

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