Now that the American version (the surprisingly good Quarantine) has come, gone, and been remanded to the DVD stacks, perhaps it's time to take another look at that film's inspiration: The brilliant Spanish horror film [REC]. As far as I know, Columbia / Sony still owns the U.S. distribution rights to [REC], which explains how they were able to bang out a remake so quickly -- but still we have no word on a U.S. release date for this fantastic horror film.
So then I figured ... hey! They speak English in England! Let's see if I can't get a Region 2 DVD of [REC]! And thanks to the crazy kook who wrote Severance a few years back, I now own an imported version of [REC]. Nyeah. I could do a Qua[REC]tine double feature if I wanted! So of course I'll break down all the goodies that are found on this (2-disc!) [REC] release, but first let's go back and talk a little bit about the flick itself.
Clocking in at a brisk 70+ minutes, and without an ounce of fat on its frame, [REC] is about a two-person camera crew that tags along with a platoon of firemen. At first things are pretty boring, but a basic call comes in (something involving a sick old woman), and off we go. Led by our TV hostess and her hard-working cameraman, we're taken to a big ol' apartment building, but when the firemen head upstairs to take care of the sick old woman -- she goes batty and starts biting people. Hard. When the rescue team tries to leave the apartment building, they (and we) discover that the edifice has been duly quarantined. Oh, and that old lady? What she's got is VERY contagious. And yes, there are several other tenants in this building.
Co-directors Jaume Balaguero and Paco Plaza give us just enough "set-up" to make the gimmick work, and then once the mayhem starts hitting the apartment walls, [REC] is a shock-a-minute mini-masterpiece of sound design, tricky jolts, and wonderfully distressing tension. As with Blair Witch, Cloverfield, and Diary of the Dead, the "found footage" technique takes a little getting used to (as do the English subtitles), but once we get knee-deep in the non-stop creeps 'n' carnage, there's little denying that [REC] is a whole lot of ferociously scary fun. (Horror fans may remember these filmmakers from flicks like Second Name, Fragile, and The Dark; those were all warm-ups for this fantastic little freak-show.) And for ME to call a movie scary, that's a pretty big compliment. [REC] is both "boo, gotcha!" scary and unsettling in that "dude, this place is seriously creepy" sort of way. Even when you can feel the co-directors jerking on the strings, it's such a fast-paced and intense ride, you won't mind the basic manipulation
There are no extras on disc one, unfortunately, but you CAN pick through trailers for The Escapist, One Missed Call, Shutter, and WAZ (aka The Killing Gene), plus you can choose between Spanish 5.1 and Spanish DTS audio tracks. For a smaller thrill, feel free to flick the English subtitles on and off. Once you've seen the flick once, I'd say you should watch it again sans subtitles. With the lights off.
Switching over to disc two, however, yields a lot of cool stuff:
The Making of [REC] is a very solid 40-minute featurette (yes, it has English subtitles) that covers pretty much everything: The concept, the cast, the special effects, the narrative gimmick, the clever surprises, lots of production and rehearsal footage, etc. Good stuff!
The promotional gallery offers the UK trailer, one TV spot, and what's generally referred to as "key art," which is poster mock-ups and such.
The interview gallery offers more video chats with the directors Paco Plaza and Jaume Balaguero, cinematographer Pablo Rosso, sound designer Oriol Tarrago, and sound director Xavi Mas. All told the interview package runs about 55 minutes.
The Cutting Room houses seven deleted / extended scenes that are sure to please the fans of the flick.
Finally, the Production Notes section offers a 14-minute behind-the-scenes featurette, a 15-minute piece on auditions and casting, and the 12-minute Production Secrets with Manuela Velasco. As a trio of miscellaneous throw-ins, these are quite welcome.
So if you have multi-regional capabilities on your DVD player, you can import a copy of your own for about $20. And since us horror fans are so loyal, so crazy, and so free with our expendable income, we'll be sure to check out Sony's Region 1 release whenever it hits the stores. (Hey, maybe package it as a Special Edition, along with Quarantine!)