Quarantine (2008)

Being locked in an apartment building is nothing to get shaken up about. Fill that building with virus infected tenants that want to bite your face off, then you've got a problem. Just ask Angela Vidal (Jennifer Carpenter), a news reporter who is simply trying to find a good story with the Los Angeles fire department. Angela gets her wish when an emergency is called in, forcing every firefighter in the precinct to spring into action. With her cameraman Scott (Steve Harris), Angela joins firefighter Jake (Jay Hernandez) as he sweeps through the building searching for the problem. But when one of their men is fatally bitten by one of the tenants, the group find themselves in a situation that won't play out in their favor. When they try to escape the building, they find the government has sealed them in, trapping them with whatever is causing the strange behavior in the tenants. I watched Quarantine following a strong recommendation from a friend. I now know I should never do that again. Quarantine is as unoriginal, cliche, predictable, and cheap as any other horror movie destroying a cinema near you.

Director John Erick Dowdle is the man to blame for Quarantine. Acting as writer and director, all of the atrocities and incongruities in the film are strictly on his shoulders. In my writing I try to avoid spoilers as much as possible, but for Quarantine, I don't care. What tried to be an innovative horror film was actually a sub par copy of every horror movie you have ever seen. First, the camera. The use of a handicam to shoot a movie has become increasingly popular after its success in Cloverfield. The problem with gimmicks like that though is they wear out their welcome extremely quickly. The camera in Cloverfield was shaky but even at its worst you can still have a general idea of what was happening. However, Quarantine thought it would be a good idea to have the cameraman never stop shaking the camera, perhaps to make it more "realistic". But with realism like that, faces and figures ended up blurring together to create nothing more than masses of differing colors. Second, the creatures. With the splendor of zombie films that are released year after year, it is easy to become exhausted by the genre. Some films recreate these villains, like 28 Days Later. But one thing that all these films hold in common, with the exception of 28 Days Later, is they never reveal why the events you are watching are happening. Usually if a film tries to give an explanation as to why people are suddenly hungry for flesh, they have to try really hard to make it convincing. Quarantine is an example of a film that tried to explain, but didn't do a good enough job. The genius explanation thought up by Dowdle was that a young girl's dog contracted some form of Super Rabies that got out to the rest of the building. Super Rabies. No explanation as to how it became Super. It just is. This leads into the third error of the film: continuity. The reason this Super Rabies is so devastating is because it is exactly like rabies, only people begin to feel the symptoms in a matter of minutes. Yet the little girl who owned the dog, who was shown as sick at the beginning of the film, took over 60 minutes to turn. Not only that, she happened to turn at the exact moment people started thinking, "Maybe the little girl is infected too". So to sound it off, we have bad camera work, bad script writing, and lack of continuity. Sounds like every zombie ever made.

I would love nothing more than to critique the acting in Quarantine. However I feel this may be a futile attempt, because most of the time I couldn't even tell which character was talking due to the awful camera work. All I can say is that the captives were good at screaming and the zombies were good at growling.

When marketing a film, you should do your best to give away as much of the plot as possible to intrigue people, but not give enough away to ruin the entire movie. When it comes to Quarantine, there isn't much of a plot to talk about. It is essentially just people locked in a house with flesh eating monsters. So the only thing this movie could possibly have going for it is hope. You should want people to hope these main characters get out alive (or die, depending on what kind of a person you are). An audience should be stuck to the screen waiting for the characters next move which could at any moment, be their last. Putting aside the fact that I felt no attachment to the characters because I was so put off by the terrible directing and writing, I still didn't feel that hope, because I already knew the ending of the film. No I did not research the ending or ask my friend how it concluded; it was the marketers fault. The fate of the main character is given away in every trailer, commercial, and even the poster. That scene of the woman being dragged away through a night vision lens is literally the last occurrence in the film before the credits roll. The filmmakers and marketing team completely took away the mystery because you knew ahead of time that rooting for them to live was pointless. I sat for 90 minutes watching a bad movie just so I can see what has already been shown in every commercial.

I'm sure many of you are saying "Well Nicholas, it is after all just a horror film. Just let us know whether it was scary or not, because all of these notes on the filmmaking are unnecessary". You are right, perhaps I am being a little harsh and judgemental. I should just worry about whether it was scary or not. Well you know what? It wasn't. Quarantine is nothing more than a pop up and scare you horror film. You could swap this film with any other of the same genre and not be able to tell the difference. If you enjoy cheap scares and terrible movies, I recommend Quarantine. If you want to watch a horror movie that is actually good, steer clear. My rating (2/10)

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Movies given a 10/10

  • Milk
  • In Bruges
  • Slumdog Millionaire
  • The Dark Knight
  • Iron Man
  • No Country For Old Men
  • The Shining
  • A Clockwork Orange