Contains mild spoilers.
With the words 'The scariest film ever' shouted on the front cover I was prepared for a right proper night of shocks and tension but before I answer whether it was successful a quick disclaimer: I'm not the biggest horror fan and this might be a strange thing to say for someone starting a blog concentrating on zombie media. I should clarify. I do like a bit of horror but I'm more into apocalyptic survival than things specifically put together to get me to soil myself.
Rec is a 2007 Spanish zombie flick filmed in the shaky-cam first person made popular by The Blair Witch, Cloverfield etc. After spending time at a Barcelona fire station filming a documentary television series, called While You're Asleep, reporter Ángela Vidal (Manuela Velasco) and her cameraman Pablo(Pablo Rosso who is also director of cinematography) follow two firemen on a routine call to a small inner city apartment block to deal with a seemingly distressed woman.
Writers and directing duo Jaume Balagueró and Paco Plaza were so focused on establishing early the authenticity of a real documentary that they cast Manuela Velascoan, already a budding news journalist, in the lead role and this certainly shows during the slow paced, mundane but highly believable opening thirty minutes or so.
Obviously as 'the scariest film ever made' things soon start taking a turn for the worse. The call-out turns a bit dark and confusing as the firemen, 2 policemen and the reporters try to make sense and control the rapidly deteriorating situation of a zombie infection spreading in a tight and claustrophobic setting. With the apartment block quarantined from the outside and a lack of information the routine call soon turns into a frenetic, confusing and downright heart pumping race for survival.
And it's the relentless pace which ramps up from 1 to 10 remarkably quickly and never drops that makes this the film it is. Confusion, claustrophobia and white knuckle fear all work in partnership to provide a genuinely blood thumping experience. Not quite the scariest film ever made but certainly not Mary Poppins.
As to the regular question of whether they are actually zombies. There is a certainly ambiguity here and the film uses infection, possession and religious undertones, pre-death craziness and apparent post death resurrection in a real candy-mix way. One could argue this demonstrates a lack of focused narrative but to me it just added to the general bat-shit confusion I feel the film set out to establish, and in some ways this made it all a tad more scary.
One thing first person films suffer from is retaining a believability as to why the fuck the camera hadn't been turned off and the filming stopped as to focus on more pertaining issues, like not being brutally slaughtered. Balagueró and Paco Plaza for the most part manage to pull this off with plausible narrative reasons at every turn and it's never an issue.
So not the scariest film ever made but certainly the scariest I've reviewed so far. [REC] is a valiant attempt at trying something new within the genre and provides quite the adrenalin ride for its 70 odd minutes. It certainly leaves a lot of questions unanswered too and I'm looking forward to seeing how these are dealt with in its two sequels. It received many accolades and awards on release and made a big enough splash so as to be remade apparently shot for shot in the US as Quarantine. This original is widely regarded as the best version though and I'll award it a heart-thumping 7/10.