The rash of remakes just keep on coming and this time they neglected to even wait long enough for the original to be released in a lot of places before making their own version for English-speaking audiences. As a huge fan of the original it’s hard to not compare the two, pretty impossible actually, and this is just one of the reasons why Quarantine fails more than it succeeds.
While filming a tour of a fire station, a TV reporter and her cameraman get taken on a call to a city apartment. What seems at first to be a fairly routine call soon turns into something much worse as an outbreak of a mysterious virus occurs which turns anyone infected into bloodthirsty killers.
All of these remakes of foreign films can justly be compared to video game adaptations; it’s not the fact that they’re remakes but the very simple fact that history has shown us that 99% of them turn out to be flat out bad. Up until now the majority have been remakes of Asian horrors, such as The Grudge, The Ring and Premonition to name but a few (all of which considered to be vastly inferior to their respective originals). Quarantine shows that Hollywood doesn’t just limit themselves to that corner of the world; oh, no, they’ll remake anything and everything as long as they think it will make them money.
This particular remake is based on a Spanish horror film from earlier this year called [REC], short-term for the record function on a camera. It was undoubtedly one of the most effective horrors to come along in years; fast, frenetic, heart-pounding and most importantly of all uniquely terrifying. So although the notion of a remake infuriates, you can’t exactly blame them for wanting to take something of such high quality and try to translate it to an American setting for English-speaking audiences. The trouble is, though, is that they seem to have thrown a hell of a lot more money at this one than the original certainly had. As a result everything looks slick and manufactured, what you would recognise as what Hollywood films usually are nowadays. This then diminishes the level of fear felt while watching because you’re always aware that it’s just a movie.
One of the key aspects of the original which made it so damn terrifying was that you felt very much “in the moment”. We were the camera, seeing things as they happens. Quarantine almost completely gets rid of that feeling and instead it just feels like a regular horror movie, despite the in-camera technique. Maybe it has something to do with having seen the original beforehand and therefore knowing when all the scares were going to happen but it’s just disappointing that they felt the need to polish up what’s onscreen instead of leaving it to work on its own.
The in-camera technique is certainly not something we haven’t seen before, beginning with the very original The Blair Witch Project ten years ago and hashed out repeatedly ever since. This technique presents two problems for the filmmakers to try and get around: first, you’re constantly asking the question, “why are they still holding the camera and filming this?” It’s a valid question to ask and most of the time it’s never able to leave the thoughts of the viewer while watching. Second, it presents us with our pesky friend the shaky-cam technique. If not used right, which is 90% of the time, it almost completely wastes the movie and Quarantine is guilty of this. [REC] used the technique to great effect as everything was done in a “down and dirty” fashion, with everything feeling real and authentic and thus the amount of shaky-cam is understandable considering what’s supposed to be happening on-screen. There’s only a few movies that have employed this technique which have worked (The Bourne Ultimatum is a prime example) and unfortunately Quarantine isn’t one of them.
What’s important in any horror film, but particularly those set in confined spaces where the danger is immediate most of the time, is to believe that these people are scared out of their mind. Save for a couple of the very minor background characters this is thankfully present in Quarantine. Since we are given a good fifteen minutes towards the beginning to get to know these characters a little bit we at least care what happens to them. Particularly Jennifer Carpenter as the TV reporter (who some may recognise from the TV show Dexter) is entirely convincing that she’s just scared to absolute death. So even if the audience isn’t terrified most of the time at least the characters seem to be.
What hinders Quarantine perhaps the most is the fact that it feels the need to explain what’s going on. In the original it was just this unknown disease that there was a sudden outbreak of but here they need to label it as rabies, just so the audience can have an idea of what it is. It furthers their thinking that the audience can’t think for themselves when they decided to remake it in the first place and by putting it into English. It’s a sad truth that there are a lot of “subtitle-phobes” out there, those who have to have everything remade into their own language before they’ll go anywhere near it. It’s something that needs to change and in the meanwhile we have to put up with these persistent remakes.
It would be a lie to say that there aren’t moments of genuine tension and successful jump-scares in Quarantine. Although the film is intensely similar to the original as far as what actually happens, and therefore if you’ve seen it you’ll know what’s coming (in fact the movie gives away it’s ending not just in the trailer but in the official poster; when did that become acceptable?), the scares are effective enough in places. However it’s not enough to make it a must see motion picture, not even close. It gets said often but it bears repeating; even though this certainly isn’t the worst of the bunch, skip it and go watch the original. Maybe if enough people do this with enough of them then this annoying flow of remakes may finally slow down.