It’s that time of year again! Time to celebrate the Resurrection with a weeklong plunge into all things zombie! Here’s the history: In 2008, Dr. Girlfriend and I decided to spend a week or so each year marathoning through zombie films that we’d never seen before, and I would blog short reviews. And simple as that, the Easter Zombie Movie Marathon was born.

For the curious, here are links to 2008, 2009 (a bad year), 2010, 2011, 2012 (when we left the blog behind), 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020.

Found footage horror films have a long history. Who did it first is a debate for another time, but Cannibal Holocaust (1980) was the first widespread found footage horror and by the early Nineties there was at least one or two released every year. Then, The Blair Witch Project hit and we were off to the races. But it was 2007 that a real explosion in the sub-genre occurred. There were at least twelve films released with the conceit that what we were watching wasn’t a typical narratively driven film but was a pieced-together document of one horrible event or another. Paranormal Activity is probably the most financially successful of all these films, but one was both financially and critically successful: [Rec].

This Spanish film (yes, we’re back to Spain this year) was written and directed by Jaume Balaguero and Paco Plaza (with a screenwriting assist by Luiso Berdejo). It has the genius conceit that what we are watching is the footage filmed by a TV crew as they record an episode for the docu-series “While You’re Sleeping” following a fire crew overnight to give people a peek into the lives of firefighters. Unfortunately, this team is summoned to an apartment building where an elderly woman is trapped in her apartment, screaming.

Our lead, television host Ángela Vidal (Manuela Velasco) and her cameraman Pablo (Pablo Rosso) follow two firefighters and two police officers up the narrow stairways to the third floor, where they discover a disheveled, bloody old woman who proceeds to attack the lead officer.

Oh yeah. From this moment on, the film is on fire.

This isn’t a film that establishes a central metaphor and expounds on it in a symbolic way that reflects on society’s failings and shortcomings. This is a film that puts people in peril and then steps on the gas, refusing to let up until the shocking final moments.

Seriously, I never even touched my phone during the 78-minute runtime. That hasn’t happened in ages.

By sticking to the single camera approach, the film feels almost like it goes down in real time, which also helps to amp up the tension. Because we’re limited to only seeing what Pablo’s camera is witness to, we only get as much information as Ángela, allowing the story to unfold in a realistic way that really packs an impact.

I don’t even really have a lot more to say about the film, beyond if you haven’t seen it yet, you really should. There’s a crazy twist at the end that sends the concept into overdrive (and is fully explored in the sequel – more on that later) and the last few seconds of the film are instantly iconic, as our heroine is dragged off into the darkness, lit only by the night vision from her film camera.

That’s not a spoiler. It’s in every advertisement for the film and was then used again for the American remake, Quarantine, which is also very good.

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