“Just another mediocre horror film to come down the pike.” That’s what I thought when I saw the previews for Quarantine, as nothing about it looked originally or all that scary. But theater goers proved otherwise, making this small budget ($12 million) film gross over three times its budget worldwide. Not bad for a film that opened to mixed critical reception, although one would have thought a horror movie in October would have done a bit more.
When a news crew decides to trail a brave fire-fighting team, they never suspect that the first call for help they respond to that night may be their last. Now they’re trapped in an apartment complex sealed off by the government. With no way of escape, they find themselves surrounded by frightened residents who are infected with a deadly mutant virus. What happens next is only known because of the footage they left behind.
Two instantly enjoyable things for me in this film: firefighters (I’m a fan of Rescue Me, what can I say?) and Jennifer Carpenter. Oh and later on? Zombies. So that’s three things in this film that I already like. Oh wait…there’s the hand-held look of Cloverfield going on too, a movie I also enjoyed. So really, there’s plenty to go on here with this film that’d keep my attention on it, so what is wrong with this film? Honestly…it’s hard to really pick it apart too much. The scares are often cheap (the pop-out-at-you kind), but there are also the more subtle pieces of the film that are genuinely frightening.
So let’s get the big annoyance out of the way: the films explanation for the zombies. This time around it’s some weaponized strain of rabies or something, which honestly isn’t too hard to believe, but the film goes a bit far in trying to explain it. But hey, whatever…zombies are zombies, no matter if they start from people and animals being bit by rats. They look nice and creepy and with the nearly complete lack of lighting going on in the film for the most part, just their moans or shuffling is enough to freak you out. In more ways than one I was reminded of the original Resident Evil video game, with the dimly lit mansion and freaky ass zombies shuffling around it (not to mention the final “baddie” is reminiscent of Lisa Trevor, though not so much in appearance).
The apartment complex has a lot to do with the films creepiness really working, although I have to wonder why no one has any freaking lamps that amount to anything, as everyone’s apartment is dimly lit with only one or two lamps. Still, it sets the mood, as does the buildings lack of internet and cable (only some fuzzy rabbit ears eventually come into play) and eventual blanketing of cell phone communications. Cutting off everyone and leaving only the other tenants of the building to talk to makes for a really solid setting from start to finish.
The films short run time actually works to its advantage as well, as it gives us plenty of time to get acquainted with our main characters and it also wraps up quickly enough that we aren’t sitting around waiting for a resolution. In fact the only complaint I have about the movies ending is that it was shown in the trailers for the film (really guys? You had to use the night vision clip?).
But when it all boils down to it, the thing that really helped this film not…well…suck was that it was really well acted. Carpenter’s anxiety level got to be a bit much by the end of the film, but I then put myself in her situation (mentally of course; I didn’t go around looking for pitch dark laboratories filled with rats and rabies) and realized that I’d probably be worse off than she was; she at least had the ability to not vomit uncontrollably, whereas I would surely be hurling in the corner at some point. That’s essentially what makes the film work—everything feels “real” and when you see the rabies infested fireman walking on his broken leg (and you can see the bone), you actually avert your gaze as you can only imagine just how horrible that must actually feel.
Overall Quarantine surprised me. It had a healthy mixture of things I already liked and cooked it up to make a pretty good zombie flick. Sure it won’t win awards for original writing or…well, originality of any kind, but all in all it’s a great little horror film that has the potential to scare the begeesus out of anyone who watches it, provided you’re in the right mood (and in a darkened room). I actually wish the film was advertised a little bit more intelligently, as I would’ve actually enjoyed seeing this movie in theaters. But instead I passed it off as another Halloween season cash in. Recommended.
Sony has released Quarantine in a single disc Blu-ray release in a standard Elite case with the usual Sony inserts. Although oddly enough, despite being a single disc release, there is actually a second slot for a second disc underneath the insert…which is odd, but perhaps they ran out of single disc cases when my particular copy was shrinkwrapped. Menus are simple and easy to navigate and everything about this release is pretty standard, even foregoing the cardboard o-ring that accompanies so many other releases nowadays.
The AVC encoded transfer for this film is really…well, it’s dark. There isn’t a whole lot of detail to glean from the print as it’s so dark, but in that regard the black levels are fantastically deep. Everything about the film, what little of it you can see looks great, particularly the copious amounts of gore that accompanies the on screen mauling’s. The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track is also quite entertaining to listen to, as the film has no score and instead the surrounds are filled with sound effects such as circling helicopters, zombie moans and gushy blood sounds (or, towards the end of the film, periodic shuffling and breathless screaming). Also included is a Portuguese TrueHD 5.1 track as well as French and Spanish DD5.1 and English, English SDH, Spanish, French, and Portuguese subtitles.
Extras for this film include a Commentary with writer/director John Erick Dowdle and writer/producer Drew Dowdle that is not nearly as engaging as the film itself, although the pair attempt their best to make tales of its production interesting. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the work the guys did, but there’s just really not a whole lot they can say about the production of a horror film I haven’t already heard. Next up is a quick trio of featurettes, including Locked In: The Making of (10:05, SD), Anatomy of a Stunt (3:23, SD), and Dressing the Infected (7:29, SD). As you can see they’re all in standard definition, tough I’ve no idea why.
Overall the extras are pretty weak here, which really only makes this release worth a Rental at best. I can definitely see myself spinning the disc again down the line simply because I really dig hand-held cam films and zombies, but those who are less favorable of the two may find one viewing enough.
Quarantine arrives on DVD and Blu-ray on February 17th.