Life and (living) death thru a lens: relentless Spanish zombie movie [Rec] is the latest entry in the current trend for shaky-cam horror started years ago by The Blair Witch Project and recently revived by Cloverfield and Diary of the Dead. When firemen are called to a Barcelona flat, perky TV reporter Angela (Manuela Velasco) and unseen lenser Pablo tag along hoping for a scoop; what they discover instead is a zombie-infested apartment block that's suddenly quarantined... trapping the film crew inside.
A runaway rollercoaster of a fright flick, [Rec]'s strength lies in how well it sets up its over-familiar zombie meltdown. Opening with straight-to-camera intros for Angela's TV show "While You're Sleeping" writer-directors Juame Balaguero and Paco Plaza quickly sketch her character - sassy and resourceful, natch - before locking us in the apartment block and chucking away the key. A confrontation between a claret-splattered old woman and emergency workers is the entree and as the (living) residents of the block try to piece together what's happening, all bloody hell is let loose.
"WILL DEFINITELY TERRIFY"
The faux-docu handheld style amps up the single-location claustrophobia brilliantly, wobbly-cam scenes shot on the hoof adding to the confusion as [Rec] ticks off every zombie movie cliche: shouting characters, a kiddie ghoul and uncaring authorities (who, in a masterstroke, are seen only in silhouette as they vacuum pack the building in biohazard plastic). On the downside, there's absolutely no substance here. The supporting cast are as one-dimensional as the zombies, while the ludicrous, tape-recorded explanation Angela discovers is straight out of the Resident Evil videogames. As "shoot 'em in the head" becomes "just keep shooting", [Rec] will definitely jangle the nerves. But it's a movie that's unlikely to last in the memory. Even the filmmakers have already taped over it; their US remake, Quarantine, is out in October.
[Rec] is out in the UK on 11 April 2008.