Burning fear in a house of horrors

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Burning fear in a house of horrors


Spanish actress Manuela Velasco stars in the horror film “REC.” Provided by All That Cinema

In “REC,” a Spanish horror film directed by Jaume Balaguero and Paco Plaza, three elements are missing — music, a famous name and a script.
It was a deliberate strategy to make the film look as real as possible.
“The film offers you an unconventional horror experience,” said Balaguero, whose previous films have also been horror flicks, including “Alicia” (1994) and “Darkness” (2002).
REC, which will be released tomorrow in Korea, revolves around a mysterious incident in a small apartment building in Barcelona, Spain.
While covering the night shift at a fire station in the city, an ambitious television reporter Angela Vidal (Manuela Velasco) and cameraman Pablo follow fire fighters to the scene of a fire.
The mission is to save an old woman who is trapped in her small apartment. But when the crew reach her, they find she is infected by an unknown virus or organism that has made her aggressive.
The crew is trapped inside the building and the bloody and horrific journey starts. Other residents are viciously attacked and all means of communication are cut off including use of phones, the Internet and television.
All they have is the videotape and sound equipment that Angela and Pablo brought with them.
The film was released last November in Spain and won the Prize of the Public, Critics Prize, the Best Director Award and Best Actress Award at the Festival de Cine de Sitges, last year.
REC is currently being remade in Hollywood by the director John Dowdle under the title “Quarantine,” although the two Spanish directors say they haven’t been involved at all.
The camera work is similar to the American frightathon “The Blair Witch Project” (1999). Scenes are recorded entirely by amateur footage, meaning the cameraman is an actual character in the story.
“We worked as if it was a documentary with only one POV [a cinema term for point of view],” Plaza said.
“We rehearsed a lot prior to the shoot and chose the most natural positions for the camera. We wanted to be very faithful to the style of a television show.”
Balaguero, who worked with Plaza on the 2002 horror documentary “OT, The Movie,” said, “Our interest was in staying faithful to what the reactions of the characters would be in such a real situation. The sensation of real time was essential for us to draw the audience into the film.”
To make the film more realistic, the directors were very careful about casting the movie. Their final decision for the lead was Velasco, who is a television journalist in Spain and at the same time a trained actress.
“She had the two things that the film needed,” Balaguero said.
Botet, who played Niña Medeiros in the film, has previously acted in horror films in Spain.
“He’s kind of an icon [for horrors] in Spain,” Balaguero says.
To Balaguero and Plaza, a horror film should show viewers an unfamiliar scene and make viewers feel as if they are the characters. That’s why the directors decided to drop conventional film techniques.
“It was a big adventure making a horror film without any sound effects or music,” Plaza said. “But we made it,” he added.

By Lee Eun-joo Staff Reporter[angie@joongang.co.kr]
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