Tuesday, July 5, 2011

"What's going on?" "I dunno. Some apartment building in LA. Good thing we're flying away."

 Hello I am the movie encyclopedia and if no one else will see it, I will.

Two months after I started this site I reviewed a movie I knew hardly anything about called Quarantine. I knew it was a remake of the Spanish film REC, it starred Dexter's Jennifer Carpenter, and used the first person camera technique that has become oh so popular in today's culture. Other than that I knew nothing. So going in with an open mind I sat down and watched it and I actually really enjoyed it. It wasn't perfect and the original was much better but it still had enough going for it that I recommended people saw it.

It wasn't before too long I heard a sequel was coming somewhere down the road and, like most of the scares in the original, it popped up on my On Demand out of nowhere and was at a bargain price. I had no idea who was in it, what the plot was besides it being at an airport, or even if it was shot in first person or not. But that didn't matter because like the original I went in with an open mind and boy was I surprised at what I saw. Not only was it shot in third person, but it was better acted, better paced and better done then the original in almost every way. I'd even go so far to say it was better than REC 2 in terms of sequels. And the most surprising thing of all? It was done by the guy who did Ghost Ship. And regular readers know my opinion of Ghost Ship.
 The plot takes place during and after the events of the original film and follows Jenny, a flight attendant who's been assigned along with her best friend Paula to cover a red eye flight out of LA. The plane is pretty empty, save for about 12 or so passengers, and seems like it's going to be as routine as it gets. The most exciting thing about the flight to Jenny is looking after a kid named George and flirting with the cute Kindergarten teacher. But once they're up in the air a passenger gets really ill and goes berserk on the plane, attacking Jenny and trying to force the plane out of the sky. Because of his actions, and because one of the crew is injured in the process by the passenger, the pilots land at a small, mostly abandoned airport with what seems like only one employee. But things only get worse as once they are in the airport as they soon realize that, like the apartment building in the original, they too are under quarantine.

The story actually works quite well for the most part. It's riddled with cliches' and stereotypes that we've come to expect from horror movies but it's written in a way that it's never overly predictable and the dialogue steers clear of the cheesy one liners for the most part. Like its predecessor it's also quite atmospheric. We don't get into the action until about 15 or so minutes into the movie and before that we are actually left guessing who could be the carrier, something that actually had me squirming with anticipation. And once off the plane, the film is paced well enough that for every time the action gets intense, there is enough down time for the viewer to catch their breath. My only complaint with the writing is one scene very late in the film that seems to go on forever. It's not so much the length of the scene but one very disgusting action done in scene at close range. What makes it worse is that the action has little to do with the plot so it's a bit jarring.
 One area the film also succeeds in for the most part is the acting. Mercedes Masohn is fantastic as Jenny, creating a very believable, likable and human character. You see her character transform completely over the course of the film and she goes through the emotional ringer a few times. What's surprising is unlike most horror movie heroes, she doesn't gain a spine all of sudden or turn into a blubbering heap at the first sign of trouble. She responds like anyone would and while I credit a lot of that to the writing, Mercedes does well expressing it on screen. Other highlights include Better With You's Josh Cooke as Henry the Kindergarten teacher and Ignacio Serricchio as Ed the bag guy. Both take on the male hero character but display two radically different styles to their heroism. Henry is an intellectual and quick thinker while Ed is a shoot first, ask questions later type of hero.

The praise for the acting, however, stops here. Luckily the three people I mentioned take up a majority of the screen time but it becomes incredibly obvious as the film goes on that everyone else is either phoning it in or just really isn't that good of an actor. Some take their stereotype to comically bad levels, some sound monotone and lifeless, and one character, the kid I mentioned in the plot outline, is so annoying that I wanted to reach in the TV and punch him out. And he's in a majority of the film! Luckily Mercedes, Ignacio and Josh do their best to get the most out of the other actors so there are occasional bright spots with the others but it's easy to see the difference in effort between the actors.
The film is relatively low budget, costing a third of what the original did to make so there are times where the film looks cheap but overall the director does his best to make the film look blockbuster quality. One neat thing is that Robert Hall and the team at Almost Human return to do the make up for the movie so the "infected" look just like they did in the original, something that as a fan of the original I could appreciate.

Quarantine 2 certainly won't win any awards and there are a few major flaws here and there but overall this is a surprisingly good sequel and horror film in general. It's a shame this is basically a Direct to DVD movie so you probably won't catch it at your local theater but if you see it on the shelves at your local video store or are in need of a good horror movie to watch on Netflix or Redbox, I suggest getting Quarantine 2.


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