Arguably the scariest film of the 21st century and certainly the most effective in the found-footage sub-genre of horror, [REC] is a Spanish horror masterpiece that invites its viewers in with a deceptive opening that many might mistake for another low-budget, non-effective, cheap thrill ride but then in few minutes, gains momentum relatively quick and unleashes such an all-out assault of extreme terror on its unwary audience that they remain on the edge of their seats for the rest of its runtime. With its documentary style of filmmaking, interesting plot, incredibly tense atmosphere, impressive set pieces, and remarkable use of horror elements, [REC] is one of the scariest films of all time that is very cleverly executed and delivers the chills it promises.
[REC] follows young TV reporter, Ángela Vidal & her cameraman, Pablo covering the night shifts at one of Barcelona’s local fire stations for a segment of their reality television series, “While You’re Asleep”. After receiving a call from an old tenement building about an old woman trapped in her apartment, Ángela & Pablo along with the firemen arrive at the scene and film the firemen along with the police trying to break through the locked door. Until this moment, everything seems normal but following this occurs an incident that completely changes the mood of this film, almost instantly, as the building they are in is soon quarantined from the outside, thus introducing a claustrophobic atmosphere which further escalates into a chaotic, panicking night of relentless terror that leaves nothing to the imagination and finally culminates with an unforgettable & truly bone-chilling climax.
Direction by Balagueró & Plaza is excellent. Decision to shoot the film with the POV (point of view) technique pays off outstandingly well as it brought [REC] closer to a documentary feel and infused the film with a certain level of realism. Shaky camera work in found footage genre can make or break a film but here the guy who played Pablo, the cameraman, does a terrific job and through him only we witness the events of this movie. The amateur performances from the cast add more to the realistic look this film was aiming for and their reactions in the face of danger looked pretty genuine & similar to what most of us would’ve done in the same situation. The immensely beautiful Manuela Velasco plays TV reporter Ángela Vidal and gives an honest performance, keeping her emotions in check with the others so as to never overdo it. The movie is around 75 minutes long only but it’s a very well crafted 75 minutes that keeps intensifying the tension & anxiety as the movie progresses and is at its finest in the final moments.
Just like it is the case with almost every horror film, [REC] has its share of flaws too. While some are gonna call it a genre-defining masterpiece, others might find it overrated & in a way, both are right with their polarizing opinions. Disappointed ones might put up the lack of substance in its story or absence of character development or even a grim ending as their reasons and there is no denying that some of it is true. There are no characters to cheer for just like there aren’t any in real life situations. The ending being grim isn’t a criticism as per se and many reading this know why. Substance in its plot would’ve helped a little but what it achieves without it is still undeniably quite impressive & alarming. Just like every horror film today suffers a little from our familiarity with this genre, [REC] is no exception. It’ll work for most, it won’t work for few but for most fans of visceral horror, this film will probably end up setting a whole new benchmark.
Overall, [REC] is visceral horror at its very best. It may not have a sturdy plot or memorable performances & characters, as notable in horror classics like The Exorcist or Rosemary’s Baby, yet this low-budget thriller delivers the scares and remains one of the best cinematic experiences I’ve ever had and certainly the most frightening. Watching this film is no easy sit for there are plenty of jump scares throughout the runtime while the final moments turns almost every frame into a nerve jangling experience. But once it’s over and you’ve recovered from the series of shocks & chills, you’ll know how much you enjoyed this terror trip. One of the best horror films of all time, [REC] infuses new life into the now degrading horror genre and remains the finest horror masterpiece of this century with no equals, so far. If you haven’t seen it yet then do yourself a favour and give it a try. [REC] will not only wreck you with its atmospheric terror but will spill carnage on your senses of fear in ways you never imagined before.