AUGUST 8, 2011
While I usually try to rent the more high-profile DTV films as soon as possible, I somehow missed that Quarantine 2: Terminal had been released to DVD, and thus was surprised to see it on the shelf (and not on the “new this week” section) at Target. I am sorry for having failed you, HMAD readers. And this would actually be the second time I missed seeing the film in a timelier manner – it actually played a special theatrical screening here in LA a few months back, but alas I was stuck at work.
It’s also kind of amusing (to me), as I missed seeing the “original” Quarantine in theaters due to the usual October nuttiness back in 2008 (to date it’s the only wide release horror movie I’ve missed in theaters since HMAD began, I think). Basically, for whatever reason, I’m always a bit late to the party with these movies. But DVD is where it was destined to land, so there’s nothing wrong with seeing it there. If nothing else, Sony consistently delivers terrific looking standard def discs, which is probably better than the (likely) half-assed digital presentations it got in theaters.
Unfortunately they didn’t really deliver a very good movie. It was a foregone conclusion that they couldn’t remake [Rec] 2 for their follow-up, since that film was so heavily based on the religious angle that the first Quarantine dropped, but I’m not sure if going so far into the other direction was the best call. Not only do they change the locale (to an airport – the dual meaning subtitle Terminal is about the cleverest thing about the movie), but even the approach – this is not a found footage movie. And that presents a problem right off the bat – none of the previous films in this “franchise” had particularly great scripts; their success was primarily due to the unique approach to this sort of claustrophobic zombie/virus terror movie, not the actual plot. So now it’s just another zombie/virus movie that looks like every other zombie/virus movie, and not even a memorably shot one – screenwriting vet John Pogue makes his directorial debut here (working from his own script), and while competent, nothing about it suggests he should stick to it full time.
And he certainly needs to work on his scares if he was to continue directing horror movies. Most of them are telegraphed and all of them are basically the same – an infected person suddenly shrieks and runs real fast toward whoever the camera was last pointing at. Then they are dispatched, or at least subdued long enough for the heroes to run away and resume yelling at each other or formulating a plan to get out of the quarantined area. For a movie set in very few locations (all of which are very cramped, particularly the laughably narrow plane that you would never actually see flying out of LAX), there is a shocking lack of any claustrophobic tension for the most part. The big plane attack does have a certain panic built into it (the infected banging on the cockpit door recalled United 93’s climax), but of course that section is the film’s shortest; they’re back on the ground by the end of the first reel.
The rest of the movie takes place in an unidentified* major airport, primarily in the (offline) baggage section, which is a maze of conveyor belts and metal railings. But, in keeping with the original’s approach of no anonymous zombies, there’s nothing much exciting about the rest of it. We know how many infected there are left at every point, and never see more than two at once, so there are no big attack scenes, and since everything is turned off they aren’t able to use the conveyor belt either to provide more weapons (like Die Hard 2!) or maybe build a cheap scare out of a zombie hiding among the luggage. Nor is there any sense of building tension – the place is closed down so there’s no threat of being overrun by the things, and there seems to be a built in time to ensure that another character is offed every 6-7 minutes.
And that would be fine if the movie had any balls, but of course that is not the case. You can practically guess the order that the characters will die as soon as they are introduced (with a bonus “this guy is obviously a villain” sighting for good measure), so there’s little to no excitement to be had as they narrow the cast down to the pre-determined final two, one of whom is a 12 year old smartass. I can’t remember if Quarantine recreated the little girl eating her mom, but either way there’s no excuse for a DTV movie to play things so safe – if they wanted to surprise us they would have killed the kid off halfway through. Even the “surprise” final death doesn’t really work, because it’s telegraphed so far in advance, and the first one did the same thing anyway.
So what’s good? Well, ironically, they did what the first Quarantine should have done, and hired a cast of no-names. Again, there’s little surprise in any of their deaths, but at least we’re able to believe in the situation a bit more this time around instead of being distracted by familiar faces. The FX are also pretty good (much better than the usual DTV fare), sticking with practical effects most of the time and even delivering a couple of nice splatter FX (also dig the needle in the eye scene). And to its credit, it’s rarely action-starved; even when they start delivering exposition on the virus and how it was caused, they’re back to running around or fighting off a crazed former friend before long.
Also, and this is something I shouldn’t have to point out, but that’s just the way it is – I didn’t hate most of the characters. Didn’t care much when they died (though Lamar Stewart’s character is dispatched far too early – he had a fun “I’m smarter than you” attitude that I was enjoying), but I wasn’t eagerly awaiting any of their demises either. Even the usual asshole guy isn’t too obnoxious, because Pogue actually reduces his presence as the movie goes on (he dies around the hour mark) and focuses more on the folks who will last a bit longer. And none of them do anything particularly stupid, so there’s something.
But it’s all for nothing, because once again it’s just not scary or suspenseful. The other films delivered fun roller coaster ride experiences; this one is like standing in line watching everyone else have fun. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again now – a bland movie like this is actually worse than a full blown stinker, because there at least you can have some fun at their expense. Fitting for a half asleep viewing at four in the morning maybe, but nothing else.
What say you?
*At the end we learn it’s Vegas, setting up a sequel I assume. Which is funny, because the far superior airplane-set Flight of the Living Dead also set its final scene in Vegas a few years back. If you seek a zombie/plane mashup, I urge you to watch that one instead.