"Quarantine" a tiresome zombie horror

Mon Oct 13, 2008 8:28am EDT
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By Frank Scheck

NEW YORK (Hollywood Reporter) - Oh, "Blair Witch," what hath thou wrought?

It has taken less than a decade, but the concept of horror films filmed documentary-style has officially become a tiresome cliche.

"Quarantine," which opened Friday without advance screenings, follows quickly on the heels of such similarly themed items as "George Romero's Diary of the Dead" and "Cloverfield" and does little to enliven the genre. But Screens Gems' $12 million remake of an apparently far superior Spanish film called "REC," managed to take the No. 2 spot at the weekend box office with estimated sales of $14.2 million.

The simple story line centers on the ill-fated plan by comely television reporter Angela (Jennifer Carpenter) and her cameraman (Steve Harris) to cover the night shift at a local firehouse. After an obligatory slow-build depicting Angela's playful interactions with the flirtatious firefighters, the film kicks into higher gear when a distress call sends the men to a small apartment building, with the journalists tagging along.

It turns out that the rundown building has been infected with a mysterious disease that turns the residents into nasty flesh-eating zombies. As the firefighters and the uninfected residents struggle to understand what's happening, the Centers for Disease Control -- in an example of governmental efficiency that clearly indicates this is only a movie -- seals the building off, guaranteeing those left inside a dismal fate.

The predictable game of Whack-a-Mole ensues as the rapidly diminishing pool of survivors does battle with homicidal creatures including an old woman, a little girl and a particularly aggressive rat.

The reasonably intense proceedings are presented entirely in the form of video footage taken by the intrepid cameraman, which, while lacking the nausea-inducing jitteriness of "The Blair Witch Project" or "Cloverfield," proves similarly grating. Only rarely does the concept prove clever, as when one zombie is bludgeoned to death with the video camera, its lens becoming progressively more blood-splattered in the process.

Carpenter displays the same sexily tough presence that she does on Showtime's "Dexter," and the supporting cast, which includes Rade Sherbedgia, Jay Hernandez, Greg Germann and Jonathan Schaech, is stronger than usual for such low-budget genre fare.

Reuters/Hollywood Reporter