STARRING Jennifer Carpenter, Johnathon Schaech, Jay Hernandez, Steve Harris DIRECTED BY John Erick Dowdle SCREENPLAY John Erick Dowdle, Drew Dowdle MPAA RATING Rated R RUNNING TIME 89 Mins. DISTRIBUTED BY Screen Gems
Based upon 2007's Spanish-produced "REC," "Quarantine" should hopefully sound the death knell for the tired, worn-out docu-horror style of filmmaking that began 10 years ago with "The Blair Witch Project" and more recently showed up in the surprisingly fresh "Cloverfield."
There's nothing fresh about "Quarantine," save for the decent performances of a cast that seems to make more of the material than is really present.
Jennifer Carpenter ("Dexter") stars as a television news reporter on assignment with her cameraman (Steve Harris, "The Practice") following two firefighters (Jay Hernandez and Johnathon Schaech). When a 911 call leads the foursome to an apartment building where a zombie-ish elderly woman is covered in blood, things go madly awry and before you can blink the Centers for Disease Control has quarantined the entire building.
Disturbingly reminiscent of the far superior "Cloverfield," "Quarantine" features enough shaky camerawork to make you forget the nauseous cinematographic gymnastics in Paul Greengrass's "United 93." While one could understand Greengrass's motivations, here it appears that director John Erick Dowdle ("The Poughkeepsie Tapes") is simply resting more on cheap camera trickery than making any conscious decision to enhance the storyline.
Filmed largely in real-time, "Quarantine" has very much a reality television feeling going for it, and while the technique grows tiresome Dowdle does have a knack for creating a sense of atmosphere and heightened anxiety that enhances the viewing experience quite a bit. It doesn't always work, however, and multiple scenes are just as likely to reduce audiences to giggles as they are to scares.
The ensemble cast all does a nice job, most notably Harris and the increasingly impressive Hernandez.
Where "Quarantine" may very well top its predecessors is in its wrap-up, a surprisingly satisfying ending that far exceeds the schlocky "Blair Witch" without becoming an obvious sequel-seeking ending like that in "Cloverfield."
Unlikely to attract much attention at the box-office, "Quarantine" will likely appeal to late night horror buffs once it's released on home video and the film's claustrophobic feeling should play just fine on the small screen.
by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic