Sunday, October 12, 2008

Review: Quarantine (****)

Directed by John Erick Dowdle

Cast: Jennifer Carpenter, Jay Hernandez, Johnathon Shaech, Columbus Short, Steve Harris, Andrew Fiscella, Rade Serbedzija, Greg Germann, Dania Ramirez, Elaine Kagan, Marin Hinkle, Joey King, Jermaine Jackson, Sharon Ferguson.

2008--89 min.

Rated R (bloody violent and disturbing content, terror, language)

Reviewed by The Teen Critic on October 12, 2008.

John Erick Dowdle's terrifying new masterpiece "Quarantine" has been unfairly treated to the maximum. How this movie never got the pre-screening for critics is beyond me. This is a level of terror not seen since 2006's "The Descent" and is possibly even scarier. Of the 50 movies I've seen this year, "Quarantine" is by far one of the very best and the scariest.

Now that that's out of my system, I will now give away the movie for you, because no matter what I tell you, nothing will ever--ever--leave your head once the experience is over with. "Quarantine" chronicles the deaths/infections of a two-man camera crew, the firemen they are shadowing, two policemen, and at least ten of the residents. That this happens is not the point. How it gets to this point is.

"Night Shift" host Angela Vidal (Jennifer Carpenter) and her cameraman Scott (Steve Harris) are in the midst of shooting a special on the lives and work of firemen. When the two arrive at a medical call with the firemen, the terror begins. A woman named Mrs. Espinoza has somehow contracted rabies from an extremely infected dog. She, in turn, infects everyone else.

That's where it stops on the plot synopsis front. Now see the movie...

...okay, so you've seen it now, and you understand the power of the images. One shot is so intrinsically cooperative that it could have fallen into the trap of feeling too unbelieveable but doesn't.

"Quarantine" is nothing short of a horror masterpiece that has somehow slipped under the radar. It is masterfully mounted, unbearably scary, and frighteningly plausible, yet deeper than one might expect. The film can be described as a sort of cross between "I Am Legend" and "Cloverfield." From the first comes the infectious disease plot, from the second the documentary filmmaking style. But it's infinitely scarier than either. "I Am Legend" was flawed effectiveness, marred by an action-oriented second half. "Cloverfield" was also a masterpiece, the tunnel scene one of the most visually stunning sequences in recent cinema. "Quarantine" has many of these.

The central question boils down to: "Why has the film been so neglected?" I'm not sure of the answer. Did the distributors foresee critical doom for the film? The outcome: 64% on Rotten Tomatoes. The result of months of misleading and downright awful advertisements: a film of stunning power. It is violent and disturbing, but like "The Descent" a couple years ago, the movie mounts breathless tension with seeming ease.

Don't pay attention to those trailers. See this film.

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