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Movies  |  Reviews

Quarantine

October 16, 2008  |  2:00pm
Quarantine
Release Date: Oct. 10
Director: John Erick Dowdle
Writers: John Erick Dowdle, Drew Dowdle
Cinematographer: Ken Seng
Starring: Jennifer Carpenter, Jay Hernandez, Steve Harris
Studio/Running Time: Screen Gems, 89 mins.

As a few of the many recent horror filmmakers to adopt a pseudo-documentary conceit, the good people behind Quarantine betrayed the movie the moment they cast it. Headliners Jennifer Carpenter and Jay Hernandez, if not exactly marquee stars, are both recognizable enough (he from the Hostel films, she from Dexter and The Exorcism of Emily Rose) that the notion we're seeing real-time footage of people that have since disappeared has zero credibility from the first moment they appear on screen.

True, by now, the genre’s faux-reality formula is so overheated by films like Cloverfield that even with a spare movie like Quarantine (which follows a group trapped in an L.A. apartment building with a fatal virus), we don't really buy it. But the anonymous faces typically in films like this help the audience fall into the easy, primal delusion that it's deep in a chronicle of these characters’ demises. It's hard to forget, meanwhile, that Jennifer Carpenter will show up on Sunday for a new episode of Dexter.

It’s a puzzling misstep, especially since director John Erick Dowdle has an otherwise impressive eye for the material. Quarantine develops into a legitimately unnerving experience that's not without winking good humor, as when the cameraman who guides the action bashes a crazed person to death with the camera while we watch through an increasingly bloodied lens.

Dowdle also has the good sense to slow down the assaultive climax for a quiet sequence in a darkened room that seems to hold an explanation for the outbreak. In a departure from [REC], the 2007 Spanish film on which Quarantine is based, he rewrites the final moments so we never learn the secret. The gesture is appreciated (the scene is more disturbing this way, more in the spirit of the frenzied moment), but when the camera cuts to a final shot of the movie’s star, we’re right back where we started.

Watch the trailer for Quarantine:

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