JULY 7, 2009
So now it’s full circle. After seeing a rather poorly translated screener (“Keep filming for your fucking mother!”), and then the remake (Quarantine), I now finally have a nice, pristine DVD of [Rec] (originally reviewed HERE) to enjoy. And not only does it obviously look the best anyone has probably seen it on a digital format, it also has actually improved in the wake of Quarantine, because it continues to be effective despite a shot for shot remake that could have lessened its impact.
As I said in my review for Quarantine, that version worked fine as a zombie movie, but failed monumentally as a “found footage” thing because every single actor in the movie, even those in small roles, was a recognizable actor. It became impossible to buy into the “realism” of the situation, something that is not an issue for [Rec]. And no, I’m not gullible enough to believe that these events really happened, but if you’re going to try to pass something off as a documentary, it seems sort of counter-productive to make it as superficially as possible.
And so now, having seen [Rec] before, and the remake, it’s remarkable how effective it is. I got scared all over again at the fireman’s body hitting the floor, and still find the situation impressively tense throughout, something that most found footage films never truly achieve (even Cloverfield had its lapses in this department). And while the performances in Quarantine were all fine, [Rec]’s cast is uniformly natural and believable, something I appreciate even more now. Usually these things have a weak link (for example, the FBI agent in Poughkeepsie Tapes, ironically directed by the guys who helmed Quarantine), but I can’t find one here. Ángela Vidal (the lead) sometimes annoys me, but that’s a character thing; actress Manuela Velasco herself is great.
The DVD transfer is quite good too. It actually looks like HD footage shot by a frightened man (Quarantine was a bit too cleaned up), and the occasional camera “glitches” look legit. Some of these movies go way overboard with such things (again, Poughkeepsie Tapes is a good example; the glitches were all clearly made in post production), but having used HD cameras myself, I can vouch for the authenticity of the pixel shifting and such that occurs during the more frenetic scenes.
Sony, however, has pulled a Magnolia with the subtitles, offering up “summed up/dumbed down” text instead of what is actually being said. All you need to do is turn on the dub track (not the worst, but none of the voices seem like they belong to the actors; the old lady sounds like a 30 year old) to see the difference. For example, when the SWAT team is sealing off the building, the head cop says “All officers in position?”, whereas the subs merely offer “Ready?”. It’s not a dialogue heavy movie, and the exposition type scenes are pretty accurate, but still, I don’t understand why the studios keep doing this on their subtitle tracks. Are the subtitle people paid by the letter or something? Or is the subtitle places themselves that are half-assing their job? Either way, it’s kind of a shame, you either have to deal with a distracting dub or a dummy’s subtitle track.
The DVD also has a 20 min making of, and it’s actually nice to see in the wake of Quarantine. That film’s featurette was pointless, because they’re all talking about the film as if they weren’t flat out copying another existing one ([Rec] was only mentioned once on the entire DVD, in passing on the commentary track). So it’s nice to see Jaume Balagueró and Paco Plaza (the actual creators) talk about their work for once. I only wish it was longer and/or less clip-heavy.
[Rec] 2 is on the way, and while I am not sure how it can live up to the original, I am excited about it. I hear Sony is planning a sequel to Quarantine as well, not sure if they are following the story of the [Rec] sequel or going off on their own (much like The Ring Two). Either way, it’s a franchise I enjoy; it’s just a shame that it took this long for the better version to reach the US (unlike The Ring or The Grudge, most people who saw Quarantine weren’t even aware of an “original version”) in a legitimate fashion.
One final note - my DVD from Sony came in a new form of the traditional Amaray DVD case. It uses up less plastic by cutting the traditional “recycle” logo on the left side (under where the insert would be if the DVD had one) and also cutting out behind where the DVD itself is stored. I’m no math wizard, but I would say it takes up 20-25% less plastic per case, which is pretty sweet. It kind of bums me out how trash seems to be encouraged in Los Angeles (almost no apartment buildings have recycling beyond bottles and cans), so to see a big studio take this measure is worth lauding, I think. And I appreciate that they are doing it in a way that cuts down on plastic without actually changing the shape of the package, which is annoying. You know those new water bottles? They fucking suck, because there is a lot less plastic along the bottom, so now they don’t stand up right. Anyway,let's hope more studios adapt this new case style.
What say you?