[REC] (2007): A Hundred Years of Horror films…

The late nineties saw the inception of an entirely new genre of horror cinema: found footage.

The late nineties saw the inception of an entirely new genre of horror cinema: found footage.

Trying to add a level of realism and immersion to a movie a found footage flick is anything that is presented as if what you are watching was recorded from by a character within the film.

While the medium had been experimented with during the eighties with movies such as Cannibal Holocaust (1984), following The Last Broadcast (1998) the idea broke into the mainstream and horror film-makers had an entirely new point of view to play with when looking for ways to scare audiences.

Following the phenomena that was The Blair Witch Project (1999), the naughties saw an outbreak of these shaky-cam specials and one of the best, and certainly the scariest, was the Spanish-made [REC] (2007)

The story opens with TV Presenter Angela (Manuela Velasco) and her cameraman Pablo (Pablo Rosso) covering the night shift at a Barcelona fire station. After much waiting around, the station finally receives a call and they head out with a pair of fire-fighters, answering a call that an elderly woman is trapped in her apartment.

Things are not as they seem and they find the old woman wandering crazed and drenched in blood. After she overpowers and bites a police officer, the building is quarantined and Angela and Pablo and trapped inside with the residents and a contagion, with their only hope to try and escape and to document the whole ordeal on film.

[REC] manages to capture the raw feelings that so many of the naughties found footage films lacked. More often than not, even when a picture was marketed as a rough and ready hand-cam feature, studios couldn’t help but get overzealous with the production value and thus making the whole thing look less real and thus much less immersive.

The claustrophobic setting of the single tower block adds a crude and genuine feel. There is a real sense of confusion and chaos that only helps build a sense of terror as the horrific events unfold, with very believable and sympathetic characters.

While [REC] is not particularly innovative in terms of its monsters, drawing heavily upon the blood spewing screaming infected from 28 Days Later (2002), the combination of them with a hand-cam works brilliantly. There is very little scarier than an unstoppable howling creature looking to do nothing apart from throttle you with its bare hands, but when you are put in the character’s POV as they frantically try to escape the terror is increased ten-fold.

With its scares and success, [REC] has launched into a franchise, with a well received sequel in [REC2] (2009), a less-so third instalment and a fourth on the way set for release next year. An American made copied-verbatim remake was also released to mixed reactions in the form of Quarantine (2008)

[REC] shows how fantastic found-footage films can be and more importantly how frightening they can be. [REC] understands what  it is and understands what it is trying to be, it doesn’t try to overstretch the usage of hand-cam medium and instead fully embraces it.

A little European gem in a genre dominated by giant Hollywood budgets, [REC] is one to watch and one that may give you second thoughts about turning on your camera’s night vision in the darkness.