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John Erick Dowdle
Jennifer Carpenter, Steve Harris, Jay Hernandez, Johnathon Schaech, Columbus Short, Andrew Fiscella, Rade Serbedzija, Greg Germann
Writing Credits:
John Erick Dowdle, Drew Dowdle, Jaume Balagueró (motion picture, "Rec"), Luis Berdejo (motion picture, "Rec"), Paco Plaza (motion picture, "Rec")

On March 11 2008, the government sealed off an apartment complex in Los Angeles. The residents were never seen again. No details. No witnesses. No evidence. Until now.

When a news crew decides to trail a brave fire-fighting team, they never suspect that the first call for help they respond to that night may be their last. Now they're trapped in an apartment complex sealed off by the government. With no way of escape, they find themselves surrounded by frightened residents who are infected with a deadly mutant virus. What happens next is only known because of the footage they left behind.

Box Office:
$12 million.
Opening Weekend
$14.211 million on 2461 screens.
Domestic Gross
$31.691 million.

Rated R

Widescreen 1.85:1/16x9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Surround 2.0
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 89 min.
Price: $28.96
Release Date: 2/17/2009

• Audio Commentary with Writer/Director John Erick Dowdle and Writer/Producer Drew Dowdle
• “Locked In: The Making of Quarantine” Featurette
• “Dressing the Infected: Robert Hall’s Stunt Make-up Design” Featurette
• “Anatomy of a Stunt” Featurette
• Previews


Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Harman/Kardon DPR 2005 7.1 Channel Receiver; Toshiba A-30 HD-DVD/1080p Upconverting DVD Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


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Quarantine (2008)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (February 11, 2009)

For a new horror film in the “found footage” manner of The Blair Witch Project and Cloverfield, we head to 2008’s Quarantine. An adaptation of a Spanish flick called Rec, Quarantine present a TV news team that follows a fire crew. Reporter Angela Vidal (Jennifer Carpenter) and cameraman Scott Percival (Steve Harris) concentrate on firefighters Jake (Jay Hernandez) and George (Johnathon Schaech).

After a slow night, they finally get a call for a medical emergency in an apartment building. A Mrs. Espinoza (Jeannie Epper ) has been acting erratically, and her oddness takes a dark turn when she chomps on a cop. This sets a lot of freaky events into play, and the folks in the building end up locked inside by the authorities. We follow the terror that follows as plenty of mayhem ensues.

It’d be easy to view Quarantine as a rip-off of Cloverfield, but that wouldn’t be fair. It’s based on a Spanish film called Rec; since that flick hit screens a couple of months prior to Cloverfield, one can’t accuse this remake of stealing from the hit monster movie.

Nonetheless, I found it tough to avoid comparisons between the two. I really liked Cloverfield and thought it achieved its goals. The movie offered a decent reinvention of the monster movie genre via its “you are there” sensibility, and I hoped that Quarantine might do the same for horror.

Unfortunately, it drops the ball to a moderate degree. This doesn’t mean the movie fails, as it offers a reasonably interesting take on its subject matter. I do like the first-person perspective. We see all the events from the point of view experienced by the folks stuck in the apartment building. This means no cuts to outsiders on the streets or anything else; it’s all one camera and nothing else.

The choice to have a professional cameraman character shoot everything also means Quarantine can justify better photography than Cloverfield. One of my frustrations with that movie came from all the crummy camera angles; often we’d see someone’s shoes instead of real action. However, those decisions made sense since they represented what footage shot by an amateur in an emergency setting would film.

In this case, we still get some ugly angles, but the choices prove more aesthetically pleasing while they remain logical within the on-the-fly framework. The decision to have the film told by the work of a professional allows Quarantine to stick within its first-person perspective but not look like crap.

All of this means that Quarantine looks more like a “real movie” than does Cloverfield, but I’m not sure that’s a good thing overall. One other difference comes from the films’ casts. While Cloverfield mostly went with unknowns, Quarantine features moderately known actors. This tends to take us out of the “reality” to a degree. It’s not a fatal flaw, and the actors do fine in their roles, but when a movie relies so much on a sense of documentary realism, it becomes a bit of a problem.

Despite these issues, I think Quarantine has its moments. To be sure, I like the first-person perspective. I imagine that we’ll get enough Cloverfield wannabes that the “found footage” concept will soon become tiresome, but right now it continues to offer a fun twist, and Quarantine exploits it fairly well.

The movie also manages to improve as it progresses. The first two acts can be somewhat tedious at times, and they don’t provide a lot of real tension. However, matters become more dynamic during the last half-hour or so. The flick goes into high gear as it presents non-stop drama, and that means it ends on a positive note.

So chalk up Quarantine as an occasionally satisfying horror flick. It doesn’t succeed on a consistent basis, and it pales in comparison to the better known Cloverfield. Still, it’s an intriguing twist on the standard horror flick.

The DVD Grades: Picture B/ Audio B+/ Bonus B-

Quarantine appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. The film’s stylistic roots meant the picture didn’t excel, but I thought it looked quite good within those constraints.

Sharpness usually seemed solid. The shooting style meant lots of out of focus elements, but those had nothing to do with the transfer itself. The DVD featured delineation that was perfectly appropriate for the various shots. No issues with jagged edges or shimmering occurred, though I noticed some light edge haloes. Source flaws also remained absent.

Colors tended to be low-key. The movie usually made things look somewhat monochromatic, which made sense within the format since so much of the flick took place in the dark apartment building setting. Though the hues never seemed memorable, they were fine for what I expected. Blacks looked solid, while shadows were a bit erratic. Usually the low-light shots seemed fine, but a few seemed somewhat dense. Overall, this was a satisfying presentation.

As for the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Quarantine, it was more active than I expected, which may actually have been a negative. Through the flick, the filmmakers slavishly adhered to the “fly on the wall” video photography; there’s not a single shot that didn’t look like it came from the news crew. However, the multichannel audio violated that sense of realism.

And it did so virtually all the time through the movie. Most of the material reflected the sense of siege that came with the apartment building confinement. The track featured a nearly constant presence of helicopters that whirred around the spectrum. The sounds of other emergency vehicles and whatnot also came from the sides and rears. The film featured no score at all.

Why did the filmmakers decide to break the realism with so much material from the surrounds? That choice was satisfying in terms of movie enjoyment but still seemed inappropriate since there was no way a news crew would capture stereo surround information. The track integrated the back speakers well, and I thought the mix left a very good impression of all the mayhem, but I was a bit disappointed the film dropped the ball when it came to attempted auditory realism.

I suspect that the filmmakers chose to go with multichannel audio simply as a nod to the demands of modern cinema. That was why the folks who made Cloverfield did it, and I thought that the use of surround audio was even less justifiable in that case. For Quarantine, it felt less like a violation of the film’s universe. Cloverfield tried much harder to present a sense of realism, whereas Quarantine made more concessions to feature films. It used recognizable actors and superior camera equipment. Both it and Cloverfield shared a “found footage” dynamic, but Quarantine looked and felt a whole lot more like a movie.

Because of that, I didn’t really mind the lack of realistic sound. Audio quality was consistently good – and definitely better than the news crew would’ve captured on the scene. Speech was concise and natural, without edginess or other issues. Effects sounded accurate and full. The movie boasted very good bass response when necessary. Again, no music appeared, so that wasn’t an issue. Despite some qualms about the lack of realism inherent in the audio presentation, I still found it to be satisfying.

In terms of extras, the DVD opens with an audio commentary from writer/director John Erick Dowdle and writer/producer Drew Dowdle. Both sit together for this running, screen-specific look at cast, characters and performances, sets and locations, camerawork and technical considerations, attempts at verisimilitude, effects and makeup, sound design, editing and pacing, rehearsals and shooting concerns, and a few other technical topics.

Only a few slow spots ever mar this generally fine commentary. The Dowdle brothers usually dig into the film with gusto and provide a lot of good insights. You should learn quite about the movie’s creation in this satisfying discussion.

Three featurettes follow. Locked In: The Making of Quarantine runs 10 minutes, five seconds and includes notes from John Erick Dowdle, Drew Dowdle, executive producer Glenn S. Gainor, cinematographer Ken Seng, editor Elliott Greenberg, production designer Jon Gary Steele, producer Sergio Aguero, and actors Johnathon Schaech, Greg Germann, Jay Hernandez, Columbus Short, Jennifer Carpenter, Stacy Chbosky, and Dania Ramirez. The program looks at cast and performances, shooting methods and cinematography, editing, sets, and various concerns. If you already listened to the commentary, you’ve already learned virtually everything discussed here. “Locked In” adds some behind the scenes shots, but those aren’t enough to make it especially worthwhile.

Dressing the Infected: Robert Hall’s Make-up Design goes for seven minutes, 29 seconds and features Gainor, John Erick Dowdle, Drew Dowdle, Chbosky, Ramirez, and special makeup designer Robert Hall. As expected, the show looks at the methods used to bring the film’s infection victims to life. We find a mix of good details in this gross but informative piece.

Finally, Anatomy of a Stunt lasts three minutes, 22 seconds and presents remarks from John Erick Dowdle and stunt coordinator Lance Gilbert. We see the execution of one particular stunt. It’s a short piece but it proves interesting.

A few ads open the DVD. We get clips for Blu-Ray Disc, Obsessed, and Passengers. These also appear in the Previews area along with promos for Fired Up, The Ugly Truth, Angels & Demons, Baghead, 2012, Screamers: The Hunting, The Grudge 3, The Poker Club, The Messengers 2: The Scarecrow, Against the Dark, Rec, The Lodger, Boogeyman 3, Vacancy 2: The First Cut, Rescue Me and fearnet.com. No trailer for Quarantine shows up here.

Ala Cloverfield, Quarantine offers a first-person film, one that reworks the standard horror flick. While not as consistently engaging as Cloverfield, Quarantine works acceptably well. I can find a mix of flaws but still think it gives us reasonable entertainment. The DVD boasts positive picture and audio as well as some interesting extras; a very good audio commentary fares the best. Though this isn’t a movie I enjoyed to a tremendous degree, I think horror fans will want to give it a look.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.9166 Stars Number of Votes: 12
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Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main