Thursday, July 02, 2009

Quarantine - The Film

I confess, when Quarantine was released to the theaters, I did not rush out to see it. I didn't speed to the rental store to grab it when it was released on DVD. I didn't rent it on "Pay-per-View," or iTunes, or NetFlix when it arrived in these locations. I skipped it at the Red Box video vending machine in the local grocery story. In fact, when I finally rented it, I didn't watch it, and had to return it to avoid late fees. In general, there was little that inspired me to watch the film in the promotional material, the cover, or the copy.

At long last I've seen it, and it was quite different from what I had expected. Not that it was better than I had anticipated, but it certainly wasn't as "bad" as I had thought. While the film didn't inspire me much, it was compact, mostly well organized, and focused. It is a 1st person film (Blair Witch, Cloverfield, etc). This allows for a lower budget as filmic perfection isn't always expected, and in theory creates a different mood for the viewer - although it clearly reminds the viewer that he or she is a viewer, something many films attempt remove.

Still, I'd not say the film was bad. If you like suspense/thriller/horror/action films, it is worth your time. The camera isn't overly shaky, which is good. The premise is common to film, but a favorite (being a group of people trapped in a single location with no means of escape).

Fans of the Showtime series Dexter will recognize Jennifer Carpenter in the lead role (Dexter's sister). I believe she does a good job in the role - even if a bit of her character from Dexter bleeds through.

Gore? Yes. Not as much as a typical zombie film. But this isn't a zombie film. Toward the end it works very hard to pull the premise together, which is almost another film in itself. My guess is most viewers will figure out some of the surprises early on. This isn't a problem because it adds to the suspense, as it should. This is akin to everyone knowing a character shouldn't open a particularly door. Regardless of our shouts, and cries of tropes, the door gets opened. While there is such a door in the film, there are other elements that work for the film if the viewer is aware of them in advance, and likely surprise those viewers who do not expect them. Overall, this keeps the film working, and worth watching.

I suppose I have no fabulous words for Quarantine because it didn't work with anything original. Nonetheless, it took established conventions and maintained suspense and thrill throughout most of the film. And it does a good job of pulling it all together at the end. It is a great study in suspense - for film makers and writers. And from what I understand, it is somewhat based on a popular Spanish film [REC] (which I've not seen).

With all of the above, I'd still suggest watching this film - if you fall into any of the aforementioned categories. And keep an eye on the background elements of the story. What might be the most frightening aspect of the film is the Civil response (related to the title of the film). Always good to know there is someone out there to help. :)


Charles Gramlich said...

I'm afraid I have to disagree with you here. I was very disappointed. Had I known clearly that it was shaky cam I'd never have watched it. It's not particularly the shaky cam as much as how artificial it makes the whole thing seem.

Stewart Sternberg said...

I watched this and thought: Not bad. Not good, but not bad. To be honest, I appreciated what they were trying to do but the execution fell flat. And the end was predictable.

I think there have been a handful of horror films in the last few years that could have been so much more than what they were, mostly because the film makers lacked vision, or because they were working down to the level of the audience.

With your indulgence, I'll post my top three...

1) Hostel--I thought the subtext here was great. I loved the idea that this was a place where the power elite came to act out their most insidious fantasies at the expense of working class people. Instead they turned this into a cheap snuff piece. Disappointing.

2) Cloverfield--The idea was great and bits of it were astounding, but overall, it fell apart. Too many stereotypes and set pieces and not enough everything. The one standout moment; the scene at the Brooklyn Bridge.

3)Indiana Jones and The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull---had they gone with the initial idea, of making this in black and white and having a title like Indiana Jones and the Invaders From Mars, it could have been marvelous. Lucas and Spielberg had a chance to have a ball with the film stuff they grew up on. They could have milked Cold War America for everything it was worth and at the same time return the heart to Indiana Jones.

Rick said...

I definitely won't watch this one. At the rate I watch movies, I'm only going with the ones you tag as "remarkable!"

William Jones said...

Stewart - Thanks for the list of films.

While I think I avoided saying this was a "good" film, I will say it is a "good" film for learning elements (if you can stand the camera movement).

Watching films or reading books you like, at least for me, makes it difficult to learn more about the craft or analyze the work because I'm always struggling with being captured by the enjoyment of the work. Now, this film wasn't horrid for me, but I could distance myself enough to study the techniques being used. In many ways, it is a blend of other, better works, which makes it a doorway into those better works.

The one question I always have with 1st person films - particularly with Cloverfield - is "Why are you still holding that camera?" :) "Either help your friend or run. Don't stand there filming it while offering commentary."