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Blu-ray Reviews

HTF Blu-Ray Review:Quarantine

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#1 of 11 OFFLINE   Neil Middlemiss

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Posted February 14 2009 - 09:25 AM


Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Year: 2008
US Rating: Rated R For Bloody Violent and Disturbing Content, Terror and Language
Film Length: 89 Mins
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 1080p High Definition
Audio: English and Portuguese Dolby TrueHD 5.1, French and Spanish 5.1
Subtitles: Portuguese, Spanish and English

US Release Date: February 17, 2009
Review Date: February 14, 2009

The Film - out of

“They’re not going to let us get out of here alive, are there?””

As Quarantine begins, there is great promise in the easy, natural feel from the ‘cameraman’s viewpoint’ as we are introduced to Angela, a reporter and her cameraman XX as they get given a tour of the firehouse they are stationed at for the night, recording a piece on the average night in the life of a firefighter. Taking a page from J.J. Abrams successful Cloverfield, we see it all through the eye of the camera.

A remake of the 2007 Spanish film [Rec], Quarantine scores points for taking its time introducing characters and building a sense apprehension from the camera’s single point of view. John Erick Dowdle adeptly directs from a screenplay he adapted along with Drew Dowdle. The hovering voyeurism of the camera, floating in, through and out of the chaos and calm during the film, is used effectively. It is the core around which the tension is slowly ratcheted up.

A Television news crew, who are staying with a Los Angeles Fire Departments to film their lives for a night, ride along with them on a call that turns out to be anything but normal. Filming the fire crew, along with the police that have responded to the same call; they witness a bloody and terrifying act of violence in the upper apartment of a three story building. An elderly lady, foaming at the mouth, bloodied and in what looks like an angry trance attacks the emergency crews. When they try to leave the building, they discover that all the exits have been blocked, the apartment building surrounded and full containment procedures in place. The fire, police and news crews along with the scared building residence are trapped, in quarantine, as a mysterious infection spreads and those ensnared are in mortal danger.

Quarantine works well and succeeds on a number of levels. It remains dedicated to its premise and doesn’t feel the need to deliver cheap chills and disposable kills every 7-10 minutes. It also seems to have learned a valuable lesson from other films that used the hand-held camera concept to tell its story. It doesn’t shake the camera to the point of nausea, takes its time within a scene to allow characters to react and act naturally and maintains a well orchestrated sense of chaos. Since Blair Witch Project exploded onto the horror scene with its subjective camera and sense of realism, others films have attempted to deliver the same documentary sense. Cloverfield the most successful of these, George A. Romero’s Diary of the Dead the least. Quarantine ranks high on that short list. It works as a thriller since has more than the mysterious affliction and somewhat zombified, rampaging bodies to create its feeling dread and fear. The cordoning of the building off from the outside world serves as an additional layer of threat, helping build foreboding, anxiety and paranoia born from the claustrophobia. Lastly, while having a group of people under extreme duress react in a selfish and panicked fashion is par for the course in horror films, when the other layers are mixed in, it combines to become gripping and terrifying.

Quarantine also boast a number recognizable faces; a cast that supports the premise faithfully and delivers performances that express the tension and fear of the characters quite naturally. Jennifer Carpenter stars as the news reporter Angela. Since her visceral performance in The Exorcism of Emily Rose, she has been one to look out for. While this role doesn’t demand as much of her as Emily Rose, she is able to show off a little humor before the screaming starts. Columbus Short plays a police officer, Wilensky, Jay Hernandez and Jonathon Schaech play firefighters Jake and George. And Rade Sherbedgia (Yuri Ivanov), Denis O’Hare (Randy) and Greg Germann (Lawrence) play residents and, though we see little of him (for obvious reasons) Steve Harris plays the cameraman Scott Percival. Many scenes include improvisational moments that enhance the ensemble feel and the unscripted nature of the proceedings.

It’s a good cast and since many of the scenes run without cuts and edits (out of necessity to the premise), they work well together, choreographing against pandemonium, darkness, blood and guts. Some scenes are digitally stitched together – but it is seamless and works perfectly with the long scenes shot continuously. And like a stage play that uses all dimensions – it as quite the feat to have pulled off as effectively as it did.

Despite some bending of the single camera rules, Quarantine is creepy and very, very scary. The tension is even palpable at times. This is a surprisingly effective horror film and an easy one to recommend. I loved it.

The Video- out of

Sony Pictures presents Quarantine on blu-ray in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 in 1080p High Definition. Like Cloverfield, it produces a sharp looking image while preserving the on the scene news camera look. Flesh tones are very natural, most notably during the calmer opening ten minutes or so. But this is a dark film for most of its running time and, as such, will be made or broken by how the light/dark contrasts are handled. Fortunately, it succeeds. Shot in HD, it relies heavily on good lighting techniques and the keen eye of the Director of Photography (Ken Seng) and the bright spots within a scene, never more than you need to see, are clean; not murky, no cloudiness or dullness. Fine details are plenty and contrasts and black level deep.

The Sound - out of

Quarantine is presented on Blu-Ray with an English (and Portuguese) Dolby TrueHD 5.1 audio track (as well as French and Spanish 5.1 tracks) and it makes good use of the films superb sound design. Without relying on music, the sound effects – sirens, horns, helicopters, echoes, heavy breathing and more all become the soundtrack to the film and the surround sound and directional effects augment that soundtrack to create an absorbing ambience. The subwoofer manages to get a good work out, with bangs, crashes and rumbling growls throughout. Even the chopper sounds boom from time to time. Sounds in each of the channels is clean; no issues. You will be pleased.

The Extra's - out of

Commentary with Writer/Director John Erick Dowdle and Writer Producer Drew Dowdle – A good, lively commentary track from the Dowdle brothers. Sharing appreciation for the talent in front of and behind the camera, we are treated to some revealing information on how shots were set up and effects were achieved.

Locked In: The Making Of Quarantine - (10:05) – A behind the scenes look at the production of Quarantine. Fairly good featurette that finds itself exploring more interesting elements of the production at times than what you typically find. Everything from production design, lighting and acting are covered though not in as much detail as I would have liked.

“Anatomy Of A Stunt” Featurette - (3:23) – A look at the stunt used in a scene late in the film as an infected falls down the center of the stairways, hitting railings on her way down. This was a scene I was sure was enhanced with computer generated imagery, but it is refreshing (and impressive) to discover that it was a real stunt scene.

”Dressing the Infected: Robert Hall’s Make-Up Design - (7:29) – Robert Hall of ‘Almost Human’ discusses his work on the film and others from the production share appreciation of his detailed work. This closer look at his extraordinarily real looking infected humans demonstrates the exception of his work. The only complaint is that it is entirely too short.

Previews: Trailers for Passengers, Resident Evil: Degeneration, Vacancy 2: The First Cut, Lakeview Terrace, Pineapple Express and Hancock.

Note: This disc is also BD Live Enabled though this feature was not active at the time of this review.

Final Thoughts

Quarantine isn’t the most original horror film, but it is takes us on one hell of a scary ride and makes excellent use of its subjective camera premise. Performances are better than the typical horror film, production values are strong and the experience is exactly what recent horror films have failed to give – intelligently crafted, effectively structured and actually scary. Horror fans, I am please to recommend Quarantine as the best scary flick since Neil Marshall’s terrific The Descent.

Overall Score - out of

Neil Middlemiss
Kernersville, NC
"Equipped with his five senses, man explores the universe around him and calls the adventure Science" – Edwin Hubble
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#2 of 11 OFFLINE   Neil Middlemiss

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Posted February 18 2009 - 09:07 AM

Anyone else catch this one? I really was quite impressed with it - far more than I was expecting based on the trailer!
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#3 of 11 OFFLINE   ChadMcCallum


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Posted February 21 2009 - 07:06 AM

Good, creepy movie with some solid performances. Jennifer Carpenter seemed to be really panicking in some scenes but ts weird not to hear her swear in every sentence, like she does in Dexter. Its too bad that
the ending was ruined by the trailers, tv spots and the cover
but overall its well worth checking out.

#4 of 11 OFFLINE   Tino


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Posted February 22 2009 - 07:29 AM

Agree 100% regarding the spoiler above!! Otherwise i thought it was good, tho i liked Cloverfield and Diary of the dead more.
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#5 of 11 OFFLINE   Michael Elliott

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Posted February 22 2009 - 07:40 AM

I want to see this one really bad but......... I want to see the original first. It looks like someone would have released it already.

#6 of 11 OFFLINE   Justin_S



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Posted February 22 2009 - 02:17 PM

I don't get creeped out by movies too often, but the last ten minutes of [●Rec] are some of the most frightening I've seen on screen in quite some time. I don't see Quarantine replicating that. That said, I'll give it a Netflix rental in the coming weeks, though that has more to do with me being a fan of Jennifer Carpenter than actually wanting to see an Americanized version of an already fine film.

On a semi-related note, I would like to see the Dowdle's still unreleased The Poughkeepsie Tapes. I saw trailers for that over a year ago, but since then, nothing.

#7 of 11 OFFLINE   David Willow

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Posted February 23 2009 - 03:14 AM

It was actually a pretty decent horror film. I had low expectations and was pleasantly surprised (ok, not so pleasantly). Super use of the surrounds to give a sense of what was happening outside. I knew what was going on without ever seeing it.

I was kind of hoping the reporter made it out. I wanted to see what they did with the guy in the attic. Guess that would have ruined the sequal Posted Image

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#8 of 11 OFFLINE   John Geelan

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Posted February 28 2009 - 10:38 AM

I thought it was excellent for its genre. Throughout the movie you can hear police/fire sirens outside the building that add an extra layer of panic to the movie. If this had been made in the 70's, it would be considered a classic.

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#9 of 11 OFFLINE   Michael Elliott

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Posted March 01 2009 - 07:49 AM

I was able to rent [REC] this weekend so I hope to view it soon. It seems like not too many even know this film is a remake because of how little attention the original film has gotten here.

#10 of 11 OFFLINE   Sam Davatchi

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Posted March 05 2009 - 10:20 AM

I saw it tonight and I think the original works way better. It’s kind of fascinating to find out why. It’s basically the same script and both use hand held camera. So you might ask why on earth this remake doesn’t work as well! Posted Image

It’s all about the little things and how and when to show the events. This is a perfect example of how a talented filmmaker can affect a movie. I find the original creepier. Just compare the endings. Isn’t it creepier in the original? And it’s just all about the camera work.

#11 of 11 OFFLINE   MattFini


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Posted March 05 2009 - 12:59 PM

^ I couldn't agree with you more, Sam. I probably wouldn't have minded Quarantine had I never seen [REC.], but sadly that is not the case. I think the original is a far superior film and I have no use for this remake.
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