[REC] is a classic horror movie involving isolation in a hostile environment coupled with well-executed horror, terror, and suspense. The film starts slowly, unlike similar themed The Thing, but quickly escalates when the fire department, with embedded newscasters that evening, responds to what they believe to be a routine call for assistance. The viewer knows something is coming and when it finally does, it’s unrelenting until the final frame of [REC] has come and gone.
[REC] is presented rather effectively through the lens of cameraman Pablo (Pablo Rosso)’s camera, who is ordered to record everything by “While Your Sleeping” television reporter Ángela Vidal (Manuela Velasco), after they and others as sealed and barricaded in an apartment building. This voyeuristic, fetish-likely film perspective is very similar to the one found in The Blair Witch Project and Cloverfield, though is it used more realistically in the former than the latter. The viewer is right there, right inside the room, almost a participant, when people are killed and the horror begins in [REC]. This perspective serves to heighten the viewers’ involvement in what is transpiring and their reactions to it. Unlike Cloverfield, where the defacto camera holder, Hud, absurdly grips and records with his friends’ camcorder through the most unimaginable situations (e.g. jumping from one building to the other), in [REC] its established why events a frequently filmed and the camera is in fact turned off a few times and abused by the situations the characters find themselves in.
One of the film’s most complimentary factors is that none of the people in the sealed off building know why they are being isolated and by extension, neither does the viewer, a nagging enigma that constantly intrigues and keeps the audiences’ attention glued. Another factor is that the building and main setting for [REC] is populated by real people, not waiting-to-dies found in average horror-fare like Alien vs. Predator: Requiem and Friday the 13th (2009). We do not get to know them quite as well as the characters in Wolf Creek but they are not blank slates and could easily exist in the real world.
There is no music or score during the majority of [REC] and rightfully so since none is required. The scenes and bloody events need no accoutrement. They speak for themselves especially the more intense occurrences. I am not saying the film would not have benefited if a good, trademark theme had been introduced, like The Hills Have Eyes remake did so effectively but it is not missed either. The viewer simply never thinks about it during [REC]’s runtime. Their attention is vehemently diverted by the gruesome and the escalating, visible anxiety of the “Quarantined” as the hellish events begin spiraling out of control: the last fifteen minutes of the film involve a monstrous chase and a game of hide and seek with life or death as the only prizes. It is one of the film’s most exciting sequences, [REC]’s defining moment, and a nail-bitter that ends with a pleading scream.
Jaume Balagueró’s [REC] is another example of a great horror film fashioned by non-U.S. hands that is a near classic in suspense if not out-rightly so. Structure-wise, [REC] is more straightforward than the evolving plot of Martrys and 28 Weeks Later, twist-ended Haute Tension (High Voltage, High Tension) and overboard but horrifically good Inside (À l’intérieur). What is really going on in the sealed off apartment in [REC] is nothing new, neither is its presentation. What is new is how [REC] was filmed, its script (which gives the viewer just the right amount of exposition) and its setting. After all, the environment is a character in the film as well.