IT CAME FROM NETFLIX! Quarantine

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(special request by Daniel Evan Cochran-Smith. Thanks for your support!)

[audio:http://www.blueinkalchemy.com/uploads/quarantine.mp3]

So The Blair Witch Project was an indy success and groundbreaking in the horror genre. And everybody loves zombies for one reason or another. Putting the two together is like getting your chocolate in my peanut butter, right? Well, it could be. Quarantine shows us what happens when you actually put chocolate milk, chocolate ice cream and chunky peanut butter together in a blender, forget to secure the lid and power the thing with a glossy portable generator – the concept is tasty, but the execution is a loud, wet mess. The film stars Jennifer Carpenter, Steve Harris, Jay Hernandez, Johnathon Schaech, Rade Šerbedžija and Greg Germann.

Jennifer Carpenter in Quarantine

Angela Vidal is an up-and-coming reporter in Los Angeles who has come to a fire station with her cameraman Scott to spend some time with the firemen. From the beginning, it was hard for me to like Angela. She comes off less as a professional reporter and more like a sorority junior or senior taking a tour of the local frat house, especially with the way some of the firemen treat her. After about ten minutes of farting around and Jake, the most handsome firefighter, hitting pretty incessantly on Angela, the call finally comes in of a medical emergency at an apartment complex. And even on the way there Jake can’t stop talking about how brave he is in an effort to get in Angela’s pants. Then again, if I knew people might live or die based on my arrival at the scene, I might have an erection, too. Anyway, it’s not long after they get into the building that it becomes clear that something is very wrong with the residents, and the building is sealed from the outside with no clear explanation to the hapless residents, the bewildered law enforcement & rescue officers and our somewhat dim heroine. And I use that term loosely.

The movie follows some horror movie tropes that break us out of the intended immersion. For example, if you’re wearing a white shirt & tie, and act like a dick to the people in uniforms, you’re probably going to end up dead. There’s also the pointless dick-measuring shouting matches between Jake and the senior police officer, to the point where the cop pulls out his sidearm and threatens to shoot Jake in the face. While at that point I honestly wouldn’t have minded, doesn’t it occur to these people that there’s something going on just a little more important than who’s in charge? When the CDC types with their creepy Darth Vader-esque breath sounds show up, everybody’s very quick to band together. While this could have come across as a view of the mercurial nature of human relationships in a high stress environment, it’s simply glossed over as everybody in the building who’s still alive gets a big hate on for the government. And then there’s Angela. Every time it seems that stillness is being used effectively in the film, Angela opens her mouth, usually to say something profound like “Didja get that?” It seems that she subcribes to the Richard Thornburg motto of broadcast journalism: Be as colossal a moron as possible.

It’s not all bad. The primary caregiver in the building is a veterenarian who identifies the infection as rabies. He does a good job of remaining calm while everybody around him is losing their shit. And I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t drawn into the action now and again by the camera work and the acting. The writing stays somewhat mediocre throughout the experience before taking a nosedive at the end, but the actors are convincing and you do feel like this is the kind of situation where people would lose their minds. People tend to panic easily when faced with something they don’t understand, and when weapons aren’t available for the masses to get their killin’ on, they cower and quiver and yell at each other for being stupid. Talk about pots & kettles…

The herky-jerky first-person camera work at times seems very clear and others induces a little vertigo. On more than one occasion we lose track of what’s going on. As the story moves towards it conclusion in the same shambling, aimless and screaming way as the horrors that were once the building’s tenants, we’re teased with tidbits of information explaining the origin of the infection and the nefarious, disturbed mind behind it. That, however, is glossed over in favor of trick photography and more jump-out scares, and we are left in the dark just like the quivering, squealing Angela.

What really bothered me in this end sequence was the tape recorder. When it’s activated, the spools turn slowly and the voice is distorted. Rather than trying to adjust its playback, as most competent people with even a hint of experience with recording devices – cameras for example – might do, both Angela and Scott stare at it blankly like it’s an alien artifact. Angela even goes so far as to say “What the fuck is that?” IT’S A TAPE RECORDER, YOU DUMB BITCH! How about trying to adjust the speed of the tape’s playback so you and we can understand what’s going on, Angela, instead of standing there like an idiot getting intimidated by a voice that, while slowed to a crawl, is still faster than your response time?

Quarantine is a remake of Spanish horror film REC. From what I understand, the American version of the film stripped out a lot of back story that had to do with the Vatican and just stuck with the zombies. The stunned silence from the ending of the film has as much to do with Jennifer Carpenter’s projected desperation, which is effective if a bit late to endear us towards her, as it does with unanswered questions. Did the CDC know what was really going on? Was the Bostonian in the attic working for them, or the doomsday cult we very briefly learn about from the clippings on the wall? We will never know. I recommend you take a pass on Quarantine. The most frightening thing about it is this: if this is what happens when works of foreign filmmakers land in the hands of Hollywood people, what would have happened to District 9?

Josh Loomis can’t always make it to the local megaplex, and thus must turn to alternative forms of cinematic entertainment. There might not be overpriced soda pop & over-buttered popcorn, and it’s unclear if this week’s film came in the mail or was delivered via the dark & mysterious tubes of the Internet. Only one thing is certain… IT CAME FROM NETFLIX.

2 Comments

  1. Cool review. I saw like, 20 minutes of this a week or so ago, and… meh? Broke my belief of it too often.

    I hear the original material is good, though, and that it’s already garnered a sequel?

    — c.

  2. @Chuck: I haven’t seen REC and don’t intend to, but I do understand that it doesn’t break the immersion of the experience over its knee with a sickening crack by having the lead actress vomit stupidity every time the camera moves back to her face or try to get a glimpse down her shirt.

    If that’s the case, it wouldn’t surprise me if REC 2 was out there somewhere.

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