Sunday, May 25, 2008


Fingers crossed, I will be moving into a new place before the month is out.
I saw the washing machine in use with my own eyes when I was viewing the flat, and it is therefore already better than where I am.

They (ie. Sunday paper columnists and such) say that moving home is one of the most stressful things you can experience, and doing it for the second time in a year is having an effect on me. It’s actually easier this time around as I never fully unpacked here, and I’ve been shedding a few items along the way, being ruthless about whether I will actually want to watch a particular DVD, listen to a CD or read a book again – meaning that now I am finally getting around to watching Alias series one.

I picked it up in a sale due to the general recommendations of friends and ex-colleagues, and it’s a fairly entertaining watch, but there’s a problem. I have just watched the Wire season 4 across two days. Seeing as the Wire is possibly the best TV series ever produced, it’s a tough act to follow. It probably doesn’t help that Alias is a slightly glossy big-budget show which revolves around a pretty young lady being a spy, but all of the smirky funny bits, slo-mo, soft-focus ideal-home ‘real life’ scenes, international locales that all look like California and god-awful singer-songwriter moments detract from the experience for me. Maybe it’s my own inability to process the type of show that attempts to be a drama, soap, comedy and thriller simultaneously, whilst others excel at one thing. I guess that’s not actually true, as Firefly is admittedly a mishmash of things, but it excels at its mash.
It kind of tells me that it would be a waste of time for me to ever bother with the likes of 24, so now I’m just waiting until I can get my hands on my next ticket to the corners of Baltimore.
Spoiler! All my problems with the show are illustrated in one scene where Sydney considers that her double-agent mum had her as part of a spy plan, involving looking at photos in her soft-focus apartment delivering a voice-over with what sounds like Enya playing in the background. Pah.
Oh no, wait, a scene with Quentin Tarantino running down a hall to Rob Zombie’s Dragula after using a motion tracker that’s literally straight out of Aliens (and therefore using tech design that looks 20 years out of date) probably pips it.

Lester Freeman shows the team the Deadwood piss-take from season four


I went to see the film ‘Rec’ blind, as it were, without having read a scrap of print about the thing before my bum was on seat – all I knew is that it wasn’t from the UK or US, and that it was a horror film that probably revolved around camera POV. (More spoilers for those who need to know.)

Horror films have been using first-person shots to ramp up the tension for decades, with 1978s Halloween springing to my mind from behind the mask of the young Michael Myers, as he commits the deed that gets him locked up. The strictly controlled vantage point and limited peripheral vision of first-person shots all contribute to a build up of fear, in much the same way as tight close-ups and darkness are used to stimulate your imagination about what you can’t see. The Blair Witch Project is arguably the most famous in the horror genre to use the POV of a video camera to the same effect, cutting down the field of vision of the naked eye and doing away with objective shots so that you identify more closely with the situation of the people being terrified. A number of films have used this device since the last millennium (or 1999) when Blair Witch was released, but few have decided to stick to it exclusively, with even 2002s My Little Eye avoiding the problems of exclusively subjective shots by having its action relayed via CCTV cams.
Cloverfield is the highest profile first-person horror since Blair Witch, and Rec was released within months of it, but both find it hard to get around the problems inherent in the device. Scream managed to successfully lampoon the horror film’s descent into genre rules whilst being a decent example in itself, but was filmed before the most recent addition to the list of ‘unrealistic behaviour in the horror genre’ was added to classics such as “let’s split up”: when you are experiencing something creepy, scary or even life threatening, don’t put down your camera as it’s obviously more important to document what’s happening than it is to escape with your life.
To be fair there would be no film where this not the case, but it is a problem that, for me at least, makes it harder to suspend belief and therefore enjoy the movie.
Whilst Cloverfield went the opposite direction to the Blair Witch in terms of scale and spectacle, Rec takes a much more low-key and credible direction, for the beginning at least.
The film follows a TV production crew of two, the presenter Angela and her camera-man Pablo, as they wander the streets at night, documenting the lives of those who work whilst we sleep. During a stint at a fire station, Angela gets her wish to liven up the show when an emergency call comes in and the crew accompanies some firemen to the scene.
Reports of screams from an old woman’s flat have led to the police to ask for the fire service’s help to break in – what they find is a crazy fat lady covered in blood, who shortly attacks and bites one of the police officers before things go to pot. The Police lock down the building and the residents of the apartment block, along with the remaining policeman, firemen and documentary duo find themselves subject to some sort of zombie/infection outbreak. Dead people walk and want to eat the living, and of course the ambitious Angela sees it as the story of the century rather than a nightmare situation, and Pablo doesn’t put down his bloody camera.
Rec doesn’t offer anything you haven’t seen in the multitude of living dead/28 x later offerings, as people carry on as if they’ve never seen such a film before. True, if it happened to us, you probably wouldn’t want to believe it either, but as soon as you did you might decide it was worth a try to start separating heads from bodies. Anyway, Rec ticks all of the boxes of the zombie/hand-held cam sub-genres, including the recent favourite pitch black/night vision scene that we have seen in 28 Weeks Later, I Am Legend and Cloverfield, but the tangent that Rec diverges into basically steals from the Exorcist, as it transpires that the zombie outbreak is due to an enzyme spread by a girl possessed by a demon in the attic.

So Rec is a right little vulture of a film, picking over the carcasses of horror gone before and putting together a Dr. Frankenstein creation of re-animated parts. That’s not to say it’s a bad film, it’s well made and features good performances, and the opening act is great, but there is nothing on offer that you haven’t seen an improved version of elsewhere.
What’s most surprising is not the magpie-like collection of other horror movie shiny things, but the fact that Hollywood has already lined up a English language remake. And not only have they lined up said remake whilst the corpse of Rec has yet to expel its last breath, but judging from the trailer it seems to be a shot-for-shot remake.
Check the trailer out yonder:

The only feature that would prevent me from immediately dismissing Quarantine in its entirety is the fact that it features Jennifer Carpenter in the lead, who also assumes the role of Dexter’s sister in the TV series Dexter. So it can’t be all bad.