A reporter and cameraman, recording a fluff piece on firemen, end up following a call to an apartment building in the middle of the night, where they discover terrifying and violent events unfolding and become trapped inside.
Jaume Balagueró & Paco Plaza, 2007
Angela (Maneula Velasco) is at a fire station overnight, bored half to death reporting on the nightly activities with her never-seen cameraman Pablo (Pablo Rosso), which mostly involve eating and sitting around. Finally they get a seemingly innocent call about an old woman trapped in her apartment and head off to the building. The woman becomes violent, viciously biting one of the police officers who have also arrived on the scene. With the threat of the officer bleeding out, they try to get him out of the building, only to be informed that the aren’t allowed to leave. Minutes later the fireman who stayed with the old woman falls down three storeys to the ground floor, face bitten. As the building’s inhabitants become more and more desperate to leave, they become quarantined, and the disease that made the old woman so violent begins to spread…
Essentially a zombie Die Hard, this Spanish horror flick was how I celebrated Halloween, and it was definitely a worthy way to spend the scariest day of the year. Although I found the handheld camerawork distracting and frequently had to rewind to even get an understanding of what had been happening, it’s a clever little movie that feeds on claustrophobia and fear of disease. Containing the fear of a zombie outbreak to just one apartment building is a stroke of genius, focusing all the usual horror and making it an internal, rather than external, threat. The characters react to the situation in realistic ways – they aren’t stupid, but they are scared, and the responsible community protectors – firemen, policemen, doctors – are the first to go. Angela is a great horror heroine, her need to constantly be doing something her defining trait in both positive and negative ways (she’s always the one who gets them moving after an attack and wants to help everyone, but just try not to be frustrated at her when she constantly cries out “what’s going on?” as zombies begin to attack and silence is necessary).
In the whole film, there isn’t a single moment scarier than the realisation of a mother that her sick daughter might not just have tonsilitis. Jump scares are all well and good, but it’s that drop of her stomach when she realises someone she loves could be a monster that makes this movie really work; the familiarity of everyone when you’re all trapped in a building makes it all the more horrifying when they turn on you. Xenophobia raises its ugly head early on when a Chinese family with a sick grandfather is accused of starting the infection, and that claustrophobic paranoia, like in The Thing, is riveting to watch. Less riveting are the action scenes. Watching a camera shake as it goes up and down stairs is not my idea of a fun time – I want to be able to see the zombie attacks, not hear them and see occasional spurts of blood. There’s some good work with make-up and effects here, particularly when you get to the big bad, whose gruesome visage you’ll see with even the most cursory Google search for this movie. It’s a very solid horror outing, and the handheld work does make it more realistic, but it’s frustrating at the same time.
[Rec] on IMDb