Shock-O-Rama's been a number of things in the past. Typically I use it to champion older films, lesser known genre films that deserve your love and attention. Sometimes I've climbed upon it like a soapbox, as when advocating the preservation and exultation of glorious 35mm film. It's even been used to catalogue crazy events like the Exhumed Films 24 Hour Horrorthon. Today I'm going to break the self enforced embargo on discussing modern movies, in an attempt to convince you that Quarantine 2: The Terminal is worthy of your (likely jam packed) time. Don't worry though, I'll go right back to discussing films with a few decades' maturation under their belts next week.
I totally understand your reluctance on this flick. After all, it is the sequel to a shot for shot remake of the superior Spanish film [REC]. It's not even up for discussion, [REC] is far superior to Quarantine; American audiences are just too lazy to read subtitles (a true fact; look it up). Right out of the chute, the deck is stacked against Quarantine 2 being good at all. And yet it truly is a solid horror outing, with refreshing choices and compelling consequences. How did it shrug off the enormous monkey riding it Master-Blaster style? Not by shamefully admitting who runs Bartertown, that's for sure.
The first brilliant decision was to not emulate [REC] 2 at all. This is a sequel that strives to stand on it's own legs, and in so doing manages to completely avoid the baggage normally weighing down followup films. Where [REC] 2 resumes immediately at the point the first leaves off, and tasks a SWAT team with accompanying a government agent into the building (setting the second film squarely in the same space as the first), Quarantine 2 takes to the air, with the contagion being transferred via a pet hamster in storage. Soon enough someone's infected and the plane is forced to make an emergency landing in Las Vegas, where the CDC won't allow anyone out of the abandoned terminal the plane taxis to. By moving the infection to a completely new setting, the film team is able to work on new concept and ideas without worrying about retreading the same material or homaging the original film.
Writer/Director John Pogue (who wrote the screenplays for U.S. Marshals, The Skulls, and Rollerball) took his freshman directorial reigns with this film, and proved that an effective horror outing can still be produced on a small budge like four million dollars. The key is a script which infuses as much logic into the shenanigans as possible. This is a rare strength in horror films, and Quarantine 2 does not have to rely on characters behaving foolishly to move the plot along or imperil them. Such a little, common sense factor does more to lend credibility to this film, as important horror cinema, then a budget weighing in at ten times as much. An incredibly welcome directorial choice was to ditch the found footage, locked first person perspective. It opens the story up by not constraining it within the framework of its perspective. This allows the strength of the narrative's dread to shine through, rather than relying on the startles a shaky cam often uses as a crutch. One failing that I have to mention centers around the night vision segment. These portions of films, where only one character can see by virtue of the night vision, always feel like an exercise in angering frustration for me, rather than tension filled and horrific. Yes, we get it, humans look freaky all green colored with beady white eyes. It didn't work in [REC] or 28 Weeks Later. Thankfully it's short lived here.
When considered as a whole, what we come away with is a modestly proportioned, scary, well executed horror flick, which could have easily stood on it's own without the burden of sequel nomenclature. This is the highest praise that I can bestow on a direct to video sequel. Is this a blockbuster that will knock your sox off? Hardly. But it is well worth your time to seek out and will likely defy your expectations. It's superior to both [REC] 2 and Quarantine, so if you enjoyed either then you should be in good company here. If you passed on Quarantine 2: The Terminal when Tim reviewed home release, now is the time to leave your reservations at the door, pop a big old bag of popcorn, and curl up with this little diamond in the rough.
And from around the 'net
Long time Shock-O-Rama readers probably know about my love of Mystery Science Theater 3000, and as an extension Riff Trax, Cinematic Titanic, and Incognito Cinema Warriors XP. The latter is as close to the cow town puppet show as we can get these days, with sassy robots, pop culture references, and zombies galore. They have a new episode on the horizon, which is amazing when you consider that the crew behind it do this in their free time, whilst still remaining regular working shemps like the rest of us. If you're really sick of the rapid fire regurgitation of Resident Evil films, ICWXP released an hour long lambasting of it for free (HERE). Below you can find the new, pine fresh scented teaser for their forthcoming episode. Check out their website (www.ICWXP.com) for full episodes and to support independent robot puppetry.
If you simply can't get enough horror happenings here on Mania, might I humbly suggest checking out Tuesday Terrors? It's got all the shocking news to keep you current (and possibly help you survive until the credits roll).
Chuck Francisco is a columnist and critic for Mania, writing Saturday's Shock-O-Rama, the weekly look into classic cult, horror and sci-fi. He is a co-curator of several repertoire film series at the world famousColonial Theatre in Phoenixville, PA. You can hear him drop nerd knowledge on weekly podcast You've Got Geek or think him a fool of a Took on Twitter.