Quarantine Movie Review
In January of 2008, Cloverfield emerged as a bona fide hit thanks to its handheld camera gimmick that presented a horror story through the eyes of several ordinary citizens. Several months later, Quarantine was released, looking to use this gimmick in a much more claustrophobic setting.
In Quarantine, Jennifer Carpenter (The Exorcism of Emily Rose) stars as Angela Vidal, a television reporter who has been assigned to shadow a group of firefighters. After hours of boredom, Angela finally catches a break when the men are called to take care of a minor disturbance in an apartment building. When they arrive, however, they find an old, seemingly senile woman who ends up biting the flesh from a man's neck and putting him on the brink of death. Their attempts to get the man to a hospital are cut short, however, when they discover that the CDC has quarantined off the building, blocked their cell phones and reported to the local news that everyone has been evacuated. In other words, the people inside have been abandoned to die from the terror that lies within.
Quarantine is a well made picture with strong acting, a neat concept and some exciting moments. While not the scariest movie ever invented, Quarantine is an effective-horror thriller that will leave the more gullible audience members hiding under their blankets. This is all the more impressive considering that Quarantine is, essentially, a zombie movie, though I can't recall one that was set in such a claustrophobic and contained area. The idea of barricading a group of people in a single building to have them get picked off one by one is pretty clever for a genre that can only vary so much from its source material.
The gimmick of viewing the story through the "eyes" of a cameraman pays off for the most part, as Quarantine plays out as one of the more believable zombie pictures ever made. The progression of the characters and their ultimate demise is pretty realistic, and we also get to the see the first death-by-camera bludgeoning of a zombie. Yes, co-writer and director John Erick Dowdle takes his gimmick so far as to actually use the camera as a weapon.
So if I like the gimmick, why do I keep referring to it as such? The answer is simple: the gimmick only works for so long. Whereas I thought the camera work was effective for the entirety of Cloverfield, Dowdle traps himself in a corner with Quarantine. Due to the basic concept, it's pretty clear what is going to happen to the characters - though the people in zombie movies rarely survive, there is at least some sense that some of them could survive. Not here. And in his attempt to make the movie as realistic as possible, Dowdle is forced to make his characters - most notably Carpenter's - do some pretty annoying things.
To be blunt, Carpenter becomes increasingly frustrating as the movie progresses. She spends most of the final act screaming and crying, and literally does nothing to help her situation. In fact, she's all but useless. Sure, if I were attacked by a bunch of zombies, I probably would freak out, but this is a movie, and the lead character needs to do something to help herself. It's hard to root for someone who has such a low instinct for survival.
Quarantine is a clever and creepy film with strong direction and a surprisingly decent cast. While it does get tripped up by its gimmick, the movie is one of the better horror movies of the year.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.