Movie Review for Quarantine (2008)

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Review #702 of 365
Movie Review of Quarantine (2008) [R] 89 minutes
WIP™ Scale: $5.00
Where Viewed: Kerasotes Olde Town 14, Arvada, CO
When Seen: 9 October 2008 @ 7:00 pm
DVD Release Date: Unscheduled (please check back)
After the Credits:

Soundtrack: order the CD below

Directed by: John Erick Dowdle (The Dry Spell)
Written by: John Erick Dowdle (The Dry Spell) • Drew Dowdle (debut) • (0) based on the motion picture Rec by Jaume Balagueró, Luis Berdejo, and Paco Plaza

Featured Cast (Where You Might Remember Him/Her From):
Jennifer Carpenter (The Exorcism of Emily Rose) • Steve Harris ("The Practice") • Jay Hernandez (Lakeview Terrace) • Johnathon Schaech (Prom Night) • Columbus Short (This Christmas) • Andrew Fiscella (Prom Night) • Rade Serbedzija (The Eye) • Greg Germann (Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby) • Bernard White (American Dreamz) • Dania Ramirez (Illegal Tender) • Elaine Kagan ("House, M.D.") • Marin Hinkle ("Two and a Half Men" ) • Joey King (Horton Hears a Who! ) • Jermaine Jackson (Lucky)

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Apparently based on Spanish motion picture [Rec] by Jaume Balagueró, Luis Berdejo, and Paco Plaza, Quarantine joins a list of horror films that have become infamous for another couple of reasons. The list includes The Blair Witch Project and Cloverfield. In common, the three share their reliance on the illusion of hand-held camera effects to achieve a homemade, 'more authentic' visualization and a marketing campaign that relied on mysterious implications of the events of the film being true when, in fact, of course, none were/are. Of course, Cloverfield and Quarantine benefit from the advantage of the viral marketing possible via the Internet to create buzz for a film months if not years in advance. Both have been amazingly effective in building necessary opening-day, box-office hype. All three share a final characteristic and that is undoubtedly they failed to live up to the expectations of all except the very loyal. I'll never forget the night I saw the Blair Witch Project, and when the credits rolled a dude about 7 rows up leaped to his feet and shouted, "What the [bleep]! I want my [bleeping] $7 back!" It's a funny reaction, because there's not doubt that all three of these films are exceptionally frightening. We'll get to Quarantine specifics in a second, but bear with me here. But, all three are blatantly unsatisfying films in the end precisely because they are more about their technique and the raw way they build the terror, rather than the true elements of their stories. It will be hard, by the way, to ever top the Blair Witch Project in this, is it now a genre?, because it was the first mainstream film that many people saw of its kind, it was in scarier black and white, and it tapped the sheer basal emotional fears of being hunted and lost in the woods that can scare the living daylights out of most anyone.

Quarantine starts out with the proof of the necessity of the hand-held cinematography—always a curious justification in and of itself. News reporter Angela Vidal (Jennifer Carpenter) is on assignment at the local fire station with her camera operator Scott Percival (Steve Harris). She asks him to film everything. Yeah, everything. And if there's ever been a less steady professional camera operator on earth, it's hard to imagine—even built-in circuitry employed by most cameras today, you'd think would compensate for some of his jiggles. Anyway, they interview the fire fighters and get an inside take on their lives in a drawn out segment that bore, unfortunately, very little ultimate relevance to the film except to introduce us to two fire fighters including Jake (Jay Hernandez) who end up being important later. All of the sudden, the fire alarms go off and the company is called to action. They for some reason have agreed to allow the news crew to shadow their every movement for the rest of the shift despite the obvious dangers involved. In this case, they are called to an apartment house. The building manager Yuri Ivanov (Rade Serbedzija) has called 911 when the screaming of a resident was too much for the others to bear. The police are already on the scene, so one of the officers and a few fire fighters and the news crew enter the building. They go to the women's apartment and quickly find themselves in trouble with a blood-thirsty woman who will stop at nothing to bite them. And, the evening just gets 'better' and 'better' as not long after this people start foaming at the mouth, attacking each other, and the government shows up out of nowhere to seal off the building and prevent anyone from getting in or out with authorization to use deadly force. The building is under quarantine. Over the course of the next 30 minutes, many clues will be revealed as to what's going on and been going on in the apartment building. You can see the spoiler for the ending if you wish to find out more about what was going on. The story culminates in one final, very scary confrontation.

While Quarantine is somewhat scary, it relies primarily on fear of the dark and the "stuff jumping out unexpectedly" techniques to make it so. Arguably, the decision to stick with the film being that made by the news camera operator shuts down many, many angles of exploration that could have made the film so much better because as it is we only see what he sees in one continuous line. Who knows what else might have been going on elsewhere that would have been far scarier or more terrifying. Moreover, the leading lady, Ms Jennifer Carpenter folds up half way through into a heavy-panting, constantly wheezing, fraidy-cat. She's no Lt. Ripley staring down the queen alien in other words. Whether is was thought this would make the film more frightening or not isn't known, but it doesn't have that effect. When she does get the notion to be brave, it's ridiculously over-played and seemingly erratic.

… is better than a good number of the entries in the terror category, but that's sadly not saying very much.
Bottom line, she's annoying. There's a point where you really wish Scott would just knock her out and save himself. All of this added to an ending that's borrowed straight from the aforementioned genre list not to mention already revealed in the preview, make for one entirely disappointing film. That's not to say there weren't a few people who jumped up at the end to shout, "This was so scary, it's my new favorite movie." Now they were a couple of 14-year old, unaccompanied minors who somehow got into a Rated-R screening, but that's irrelevant. Co-writer / director John Erick Dowdle has some talent, though, and it does show through in some of the more subtle elements of the film. There's a camera bashing element that's going to be copied again and again in films to come—not sure how they'll justify it, but they'll figure out a way. [Another objection to the filming technique—it can be used to hide the fact that a film is low-budget or not well made. The lighting is intentionally bad, for example. Keep that in ming.] Overall, Quarantine is better than a good number of the entries in the terror category, but that's sadly not saying very much.

Note to Parents: There is absolutely no reason why anyone under 17 would ever in a million years need to see this gruesome, violent film. It is Rated R which means that no one under 17 can get in without a parent or guardian. Don't be that parent or guardian. Certainly don't take kids to see this film because you want to see it and it's now apparently less expensive to bring a kid to a movie than to pay for a babysitter?

Note to MPAA:
It's time for you folks to step up to the plate on this and start rating films like this NC-17. Your continued irresponsibility when it comes to the R-rating for films when you have to know a few things: (A) Kids don't need to see these movies, (B) theaters will work to enforce a no kids zone when it's NC-17, but not when it's R, and (C) the mounting evidence that violent movies have an irrevocably negative impact on younger kids is growing to be more and more insurmountable. The time has come for you to do your duty, if your duty is to rate movies to supply parents and guardians with ample warning as to the contents of a movie, and start passing out more NC-17 to films with a gruesome and violent nature as you do for ones that depict humans in overtly sexual contexts. It's truly reprehensible that anyone would think this movie is not an NC-17, and it's time for parents and guardians to demand better from the MPAA. Here's what their website says constitutes an NC-17 rating:

An NC-17 rated motion picture is one that, in the view of the Rating Board, most parents would consider patently too adult for their children 17 and under. No children will be admitted. NC-17 does not mean “obscene” or “pornographic” in the common or legal meaning of those words, and should not be construed as a negative judgment in any sense. The rating simply signals that the content is appropriate only for an adult audience. An NC-17 rating can be based on violence, sex, aberrational behavior, drug abuse or any other element that most parents would consider too strong and therefore off-limits for viewing by their children.
It's difficult to imagine that most parents wouldn't find this film "patently too adult for children 17 and under". WAKE UP MPAA!

Here is their contact information if you'd like to be heard on the issue:
Office of the Chairman and CEO, 1600 Eye St., NW, Washington, DC 20006
202•293•1966 (main) 202•296•7410(fax).

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Other Projects Featuring Quarantine (2008)
Cast Members
Jennifer CarpenterSteve HarrisJay Hernandez
Johnathon SchaechColumbus ShortAndrew Fiscella
Rade SerbedzijaGreg GermannBernard White
Dania RamirezJermaine JacksonMarin Hinkle
John Erick Dowdle
John Erick DowdleDrew Dowdle
Review-lite Quarantine (2008) [max of 150 words]
If you've seen the trailer, you probably don't need to see the movie, both the scariest moment and the ending are revealed in the trailer, and 5 minutes in you'll figure that out and immediately want your money back.

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