Quarantine has taken a lot of crap, being slammed as an unnecessary remake of the Spanish film [REC], but I think such statements are short-sighted. I would love to have seen [REC] on the big screen, but a subtitled film's chance of getting a wide theatrical release in the States are about as good as a guy in a red shirt making it back to the Enterprise in one piece. No, this doesn't say much for the attention span of the American film-going audience, but [REC] had no chance of getting big theatrical play here. Let's move past it, people.
So that leaves us with Quarantine, a film which does pretty damn well on its own. Jennifer Carpenter of the way cool Showtime series Dexter plays Angela Vidal, a TV news reporter shadowing a group of Los Angeles firefighters on the overnight shift. The entire film is seen through the eye of her camera operated by Scott Percival (Steve Harris). The evening gets off to a slow start so we see Angela sliding down the fire pole, flirting with a firefighter named Jake (Hostel's Jay Hernandez) and lamenting that the whole night might be a washout. Finally a call comes in and the paramedics are called to an apartment building to aid an elderly woman who is infected with something that is contagious via contact with bodily fluids. To borrow a phrase from Shaun of the Dead, the old girl is a bit bitey and her violent and murderous nature quickly spreads among the tenants. Before Angela and the others can flee the building has been surrounded by operatives of the Center for Disease Control, and the space suits they're wearing and their readiness to shoot anyone that tries to leave doesn't bode well for our heroes.
Like 28 Days Later this is a zombie film without zombies. No one is coming back from the dead, but victims of this infection quickly degenerate into slobbering lunatics, not unlike what you see in Walmart on the day after Thanksgiving. After a beginning that is intentionally slow to build suspense, things ramp up with the film balancing action and exposition nicely. As with any of these pseudo documentary films like The Blair Witch Project or Cloverfield the question of why are these people still filming while they're running for their lives is a valid one. Director John Erick Dowdle (who also helmed The Poughkeepsie Tapes) does a respectable job of keeping the gimmick believable. Occasional bits are inserted to provide a reason for the fact that Scott is still shooting, but it isn't overdone as it was in Diary of the Dead, in which George Romero's frequent references to the fact were just distracting. Dowdle might have further aided the illusion by casting unknowns, but recognizable faces are presumably a necessity in getting financing, even if we're not talking about huge stars.
The Spanish version will likely hit DVD around the same time or shortly after Quarantine does, and the publicity surrounding the remake will have a trickle down effect, bringing far more attention to the U.S. DVD release of [REC] than it would have gotten on its own.