Purchased for a Hollywood remake before it was even completed, Spanish directors Jaume Balagueró and Paco Plaza’s [REC] seemed destined for cult status from its very conception. Two short teaser trailers confirmed the movie’s huge promise and a third of a terrified audience set anticipation wild.
As the film opens you could be mistaken for thinking you were watching the next Blair Witch. In a similar style, [REC] is filmed entirely on handheld camera, although here on a more conventional basis. The cameraman is just that, working with presenter Ángela (Velasco) for a local TV station. Their latest report for show ‘While You Were Sleeping’ sees them stationed with a firemen squad on their daily nightshift.
Wandering around the base interviewing workers and filming the sleeping, eating and fitness quarters, Ángela and cameraman Pablo (Yamam) lie in waiting for the first emergency call of the night.
Soon enough, the alarm calls and the TV crew jump on board as the fire squad head out. They reach their destination but there is no fire in sight and enter an apartment block to investigate. As a policeman immediately ushers them upstairs it becomes apparent that the problem is a little more unusual than the firemen are used to.
Following every inch of the action, the TV squad shadow the emergency crew toe-to-toe and really convey the excitement of live, non-stop reporting. They enter the apartment where the disturbance occurred to find a dishevelled woman, partially dressed and covered in blood. Cautiously approaching, the woman suddenly makes a lunge for the policeman, biting his neck and tearing away flesh and arteries.
In horror, the crew and firemen gasp, struggling to wrestle the policeman free, and finally make a break for the door to regroup downstairs. However, as they reach the lobby, the main door is being sealed off, and the true extent of the situation emerges.
[REC] is a new breed of zombie movie, as an infection wreaks havoc on the lives of one apartment block’s residents. Barricaded inside for fear of spreading the problem, Ángela and cameraman Pablo turn their attention to surviving the horror they have found themselves in, while recording the events until the final minutes of tape run out.
The point of view narration is hugely effective and really places you in the heat of the action although for the majority of the film, as the crew keep breaking back to the lobby, there is no real sustained suspense. However, more of the residents are attacked and the pace and horror quickly builds, proving for a thrilling conclusion.
Sadly before the close, an unnecessary story twist takes hold but doesn’t ruin an entertaining spectacle. [REC] has all the ingredients to be a much lauded cult horror, but is unlikely to be recognised as the next true trend setter. There are though, certainly enough jumps, frights and shocks to keep you more than interested as a real life nightmare plays out right before your very eyes.