Rec (aka [Rec]) first published by Little White Lies
Cannibal Holocaust (1980) and The Blair Witch Project (1999) may have set the ball rolling, but it was the terrors of 11th September, 2001, recorded live by amateurs at the scene, that made reportage the vehicle of choice for today’s horror films, from Diary of the Dead (2007) to Cloverfield (2008) to any number of lower-budget faux-reality horrors to have come out the other end of 9/11. The frightening events of Jaume Balagueró and Paco Plaza‘s Rec (aka [Rec]) similarly purport to be raw documentary footage – and in case anyone misses the connection between contemporary anxieties and the film’s handheld medium, Rec‘s disaster scenario sees a two-person television crew following firemen into a building…
Documenting the humdrum working lives of a local firecrew, reporter Ángela (Manuela Velasco) and her unseen cameraman Pablo (Pablo Rosso) ride along on what ought to be a routine trip to help an elderly woman out of her locked apartment, only to find themselves trapped in the building, with an infectious evil spreading rapidly through the small population of residents, and with security forces outside preventing any escape. Armed only with their camera, the two will bear witness to an unfolding apocalypse that they cannot stop – and cannot stop filming.
Rec wears its debts to Night of the Living Dead, The Blair Witch Project and The Exorcist on its bloody sleeve, but these are recombined into something quite original and, more importantly, nerve-shreddingly terrifying. Rec idles disarmingly through its initial scenes, but then, from about a third of the way into its economic 80-minute duration, viewers are suddenly wrenched into a shaky-cam nightmare that escalates with each floor climbed by the hysterical survivors, until, in near total darkness, the film reaches a frenzied ending that not even the most hardened genre fan will either see coming or watch unruffled. Cut!
© Anton Bitel