Toto Miranda is new to horror.
Or, at least horror as you and I know it. He’s a film buff (and musician – as a member of The Octopus Project he’s one of the loudest drummers on the planet) and has a huge amount of respect for the horror genre, but is just now getting around to seeing a few movies that some of us less-well-adjusted folks call “classics”.
Remember the thrill you got when you first realized you were a true horror fan? Remember the excitement of realizing just how many awesome movies you hadn’t seen yet? We’re hoping to recapture some of that excitement through Toto’s eyes as he watches some of our favorite horror movies for the very first time.
Head inside to check out his thoughts on [REC]! Just in time for [REC] 3 hitting next week!
So the idea behind me writing this was to have a new horror fan watch some horror classics for the first time and give his perspective. We agreed on [REC] as the film for this experiment, which turns out to be a great choice in some ways and maybe not the most appropriate choice in other ways. Before getting into the details, two quick overall statements – One: this piece will consist almost entirely of spoilers, as I imagine the point is to discuss something y’all already have familiarity with and opinions on, and Two: I totally loved the movie.
It occurred to me as I was watching that the plot and POV style corresponded nicely with my viewing circumstances – that is, a normal, unsuspecting dude (OK, I suspected a little bit) thrust into horrific, rapidly degenerating circumstances. The change in tone from the initial setup to the haunted-house ending is one reason I feel slightly less qualified to comment as a genre outsider, as overall I felt like the film is a really excellent thriller with a horror element that takes it over the top. I guess genre boundaries can be a fine line, but as someone who usually avoids straight-up horror movies I expected to feel a little more left out. Instead I was totally swept along as things got worse and worse, and totally accepted the more typical horror setting at the end as a way for the story to further increase the tension it had built up to that point.
The stripped-down production design and storytelling really sell the movie’s progression into horror. As someone whose pet peeves include gratuitous CGI and bloated exposition I was extremely excited about the practical, on-camera effects and the short running time (that the movie ends after just 78 minutes really amplifies the shocking final scene) – a storytelling style that makes the film “real” enough to really punctuate the sudden scares. The face-bitten fireman’s fall from upstairs to the lobby was a totally unexpected shock for me. And I especially loved the discovery that the little girl’s sickness might be more serious than expected – where a standard zombie story would usually include a fair amount of hand-wringing over the infection of a family member, in this case little Jennifer cuts to the chase in a way that is sudden, horrible, and extremely satisfying. This sort of narrative fast-forward earns the movie enough points to later deploy some awfully long scare setups, such as going into the attic of the darkened penthouse. What the hell else is gonna be up there except a screaming undead lurker? But it worked – I definitely jumped. Speaking to the effects, and on a bit of a personal soapbox note, god bless these folks for keeping things on-camera. I’m a great believer that even questionable creature effects/costumes (and the work here is excellent) beat the hell out of industry-standard CGI. There’s something that stops convincing me when light is no longer reflecting off an object into the camera – maybe I don’t play enough video games. The monster at the end of this film, for example, wouldn’t be half as scary if it hadn’t actually been smashing around the set. (The Making-Of feature on the DVD also gives you a great look at the costume.)
I also greatly appreciated the way the movie told such an outlandish story on what was mostly a real-world, unexaggerated set, which leads me to one of the few ways I felt I was watching [REC] differently than a more seasoned horror fan. When the two remaining characters (one of whom is essentially the viewer) end up in the penthouse, the set changes drastically. That they’ve stepped into another world entirely by coming into this sealed-off workshop is certainly the intended effect, though after spending so much of the story in a naturalistic setting it felt a bit heavy-handed to be given a guided tour of creepy old photos and medical detritus. As I said before, I was still on board – the movie had more than earned my involvement by this point and I’m not saying it wasn’t hair-raising. (Side question: why was the experimenter taking notes on a reel-to-reel tape recorder? Did the events up there take place so long ago? Maybe. Just saying, in terms of spooky clichés…) I do appreciate a solid plot twist at the end, and I love it when a story can suddenly work in a religious theme – something about the collision of the everyday world and the mystical. So this is not to be considered a complaint, just noting that the movie waited until the end to retreat into genre convention somewhat.*
So, in summary? Loved the movie. Being less versed in the ways of horror didn’t seem to make a huge difference, it was just a super solid film and a very involving experience. Maybe next time I’ll tackle something even further down the path of gore and terror.