Dir. Jaume Balagueró & Paco Plaza
31 for 31 is a curated film program for the month of October. Conceived of as a compilation mixtape, the program explores the historical and cultural legacy of Horror cinema. Consider this my billet-doux to the genre.
There are two schools of thought for zombies: walking “slow” zombies and running “fast” zombies. One creeps like lava and the other sprints like Florida Man. Debates ensue about which is scarier, but I always found those arguments inconsequential. The right answer is whatever best suits the story. Slow zombies are good for inflicting dread, whereas fast zombies work well to incite panic. 2007's found footage film REC features the latter in a relentless 78 minutes.
Directed by Jaume Balagueó & Paco Plaza, REC is a breaking news bulletin of the zombie apocalypse. Reporter Ángela Vidal and her cameraman, Pablo, think they’ve got a real scoop while accompanying firefighters in Barcelona, but soon wish they had let this story wither. What appears to be a routine house call to assist an old woman, soon reveals itself to be ground zero for a full-fledged zombie outbreak. To make matters worse, the Spanish government quarantines the entire building, which effectively imprisons everyone inside: including the viewer.
Found footage treads a fine line. The technique is a gamble that’s either an extremely effective gamble (Paranormal Activity 1) or an exhausting flop (Paranormal Activity 4). Although technically not the first, 1999’s The Blair Witch Project demonstrated the mainstream viability of the technique. It was a gamechanger, and ever since those snotnosed closeups seared themselves into our collective consciousness, there’s been several low-effort attempts to ride Blair Witch’s coattails.
Buried underneath the crap are films like REC, that manage to push the subgenre forward in creative ways. The additional layer of claustrophobia provided by the frenetic camerawork traps the viewer right alongside Angela and Pablo. It triggers a visceral sense of helplessness and makes the viewer an active participant. As the shit hits the fan while the infected run amok, you might actually smell it.
By leveraging the medium to its fullest potential, REC proves that there’s still some life left in zombies after all.
Available on Amazon Prime (find the subtitled version!)