Make no mistake about it: [REC] (2007) is a terrifying slice of cinema. The found-footage zombie survival horror thriller is only 70 minutes long, but is fast-paced, frantic gory and disgusting enough to make up for its relatively short running time.
The Spanish film follows a TV crew, firemen and residents trapped in a Barcelona apartment during one frightening and fatal night. The opening narrative follows TV presenter Angela Vidal (Manuela Velasco) as she follows a fire crew on what she expects to be an innocuous puff-piece for the local TV stations.
… but everything begins to unravel when the firemen receive a call from an apartment building, the residents believing an old woman is trapped in her home and in dire need of rescuing. Prepared for a standard open-and-shut case – enough to impress the gorgeous reporter and in time to get back to the station for nourishment – they arrive at the scene to find the building’s other residents huddled in the lobby and in fear of… what?
The officers at the scene are attacked by the old woman, who certainly doesn’t seem like your average pensioner. Well, that is unless the old people you meet possess superhuman strength, can sprint like a gazelle and have an insane and unquenchable bloodlust. Then again, have you ever seen the crush at a bingo hall when there’s a dispute? It’s a tough call.
Suffice to say, this is no bingo hall. When the dust settles on that first, nerve-jangling attack, the TV crew, firemen and residents find that their building is totally barricaded and under the watchful eye of the military and biohazard suit-wearing scientists. Oh boy, it’s gonna be one of *those* nights, isn’t it?
If the film isn’t scary enough for the viewer, then for the cast it became something of a test of their endurance. They were never once given the script in its entirety, so they were never aware of the fate of their given character. With the film being a white-knuckle ride – and probably just as intense to film – the fear of the unknown in reality must have ramped up the tension tenfold.
If the actors weren’t on tenterhooks already, then these next two snippets of info will have driven them to breaking point. First… the scene where a fireman falls from the stairs and smashes into the floor was done without the rest of the cast’s knowledge. Their expressions are genuine fear, thinking an accident had occurred.
Secondly… the final scene – which is just really horrifying – was actually shot in complete darkness. Who would ever be an actor, huh?
As RJ Bayley notes in his own review of [REC], the movie harnesses the classic horror trope of “the ever-decreasing safe space”. That is, all characters are scattered and chased higher and higher up the building with the lower floors being off-limits and monster-filled. It’s not an escape, just a desperate clawing for survival. As Bayley goes on to note, [REC] arrived at a point before the found-footage and zombie genre turned into mush. Both genres are in need of revival to this day.
[REC] is memorable for all of the right reasons. Well, if you like sleeping with the lights on anyway.