Tuesday, October 16, 2012

How About a Spanish, Found Footage, Demonic Virus, Zombie Horror?

Back before the found footage horror phenomenon became the overused cliché that it is, Jaime Balaguero and Paco Plaza created what is perhaps the genre’s best example: [Rec] (2007).

The premise begins simply.

A reporter and a camera man from a documentary style news program are shadowing a fire crew. They hope for some action that will make for good television. In the middle of the night they get their wish. They are called out to assist at a building where an elderly women has either gotten sick or been injured and is trapped in her apartment, but details are unclear. Once there, they are met by the buildings occupants who are all downstairs a little scared by the sound that the woman was making. The police and fire crew break down the door and find her, but they are violently attacked by the woman. When they try to leave for help, they discover that the building is locked down and in quarantine.

That sets the stage for our claustrophobic zombie thrill ride. As it turns out, the woman was infected by something that is contagious, and every attacked person becomes another attacker. The found footage serves to heighten the realism of what is going on, and makes the threat feel more intense. As the story progresses, the reporter and her camera man are the only non-infected survivors seeking escape. That is when they find the source of the illness, in a priest’s apartment on the top floor. And this is where the truly crazy twist is thrown into the mix (that was not in the quick-y, American, remake.) The priest was researching a demonic possession case involving a girl, and it is apparent that the possession is contagious.

Theologically speaking, it is silly for demonic possession to be biological. Either you have a natural cause or a supernatural one, not both. However, it is an interesting idea for two reasons. Throughout history many illnesses have been misdiagnosed as supernatural phenomena. There is a lot of problem trying to distinguish between purely mental illnesses and possessions, even for people of faith.

The other reason is that this is a bit of an extreme example of what happens when people try to mix science and theology. At some point it all just falls apart. Both methods can bring a person to an aspect of truth, but they are designed to explore very different realms.

The sequel to this film [Rec]2 that was released a couple of years later explores the demonic nature of the threat further. It does some clever things with the storytelling, but ultimately losses control of the marriage between biological and demonic factors even more.

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