Starring: Manuela Velasco, Ferrán Terraza, Pablo Rosso
Director: Jaume Balagueró, Paco Plaza
Running Time: 78 mins
[REC] is a Spanish film about a TV crew who joins a team of firefighters on a routine call-out to a residential building one night, but things soon take a terrifying turn as the situation spirals dangerously out of control.
Almost certainly the scariest horror movie I’ve ever seen, [REC] is an absolute masterpiece of the modern found-footage genre. With spellbinding visuals, exhilarating directing, thrilling performances, gripping intrigue and above all some exceptional scares, it’s a truly petrifying watch that you won’t be able to pull yourself away from.
There are few films out there which can really thrill you while frightening the living daylights out of you. [REC] is probably the very best of all of them, with an addictive, mesmerising visual style that turns the terrifying prospect of jump scares and horrific gore into exhilarating, unmissable viewing.
The film’s found-footage style is undoubtedly what makes it so intoxicating, as directors Jaume Balagueró and Paco Plaza take the formula and make it work to absolute perfection. This isn’t gratuitous or cheap found-footage filmmaking, but a movie that uses the medium to enhance every bit of the story it wants to tell.
Apart from the fact that the style brings you as close to the action as possible, heightening the fear factor and your feeling of vulnerability in the face of unexplained phenomena, the found-footage visuals actually bring about some genuinely gripping drama alongside the film’s exhilarating horror.
Following a TV presenter and cameraman who find themselves caught in the middle of a night of terrifying horror, the film cleverly touches on themes of the role of the media in crisis situations.
On the one hand, it’s evident that the crew’s push to record everything for the purposes of a sensationalist TV show is intrusive to the authorities trying to protect people in danger. On the other, however, the film reminds you of the importance of recording and documenting significant events, especially when there are efforts to suppress the reality of what’s happening.
I don’t want to go into any more detail for fear of spoiling the story, but it’s safe to say that the film’s use of found-footage visuals are so much more than a gimmick to scare you. Playing into some of the film’s riveting dramatic themes as well as fostering gripping intrigue, [REC] is the ultimate example of how to make a great found-footage horror.
As for the horror itself, pretty much every single moment of [REC] is beyond terrifying. With unrelenting violence, shocking gore and perfectly-timed jump scares, the film has you hooked as much as it makes you want to run and hide behind the sofa.
It’s the kind of horror that, while difficult to watch, is exhilarating to experience, evidence of immensely impressive directing and writing throughout the film.
But there’s also a word to be said about the performances here, which, although they may seem simple, are anything but. More than just a group of screaming individuals running amok inside an apartment block, the actors here bring a brilliant blend of exhilarating and melodramatic horror fare along with very genuine, down-to-earth performances.
Much of the praise has to go to lead actress Manuela Velasco, whose physicality in showing a person become increasingly distressed as the night rolls on is nothing short of spectacular. But she’s more than just a damsel in distress, and offers some riveting characterisation through her confidence and determination to get as much of the events as possible for her TV show.
That again plays into the film’s themes regarding the media, but it’s also evidence of just how important the performances are to making [REC] such an exhilarating watch.
In short, [REC] is so much more than just another found-footage horror film. Genuinely petrifying from start to finish, the film uses its visual style to absolute perfection, crafting gripping dramatic and thematic depth alongside terrifying horror that makes [REC] a mesmerising and intoxicating watch.
With fantastic performances across the board, stunning visual effects and so much more, there’s no denying that this is one of the best, and scariest, horror movies you’ll ever see. So, that’s why I’m giving [REC] an 8.5 overall.