Angela Vidal (Jennifer Carpenter) is covering a local Los Angeles fire department with her cameraman (Steve Harris) for a public relations fluff piece. An otherwise boring evening starts to buzz with possibilities when a call comes in; a woman was heard screaming in an apartment and the tenants called the authorities due to how bloodcurdling the cry was. Working with police already on the scene, the firemen enter the apartment with the reporter and cameraman to discover a docile woman that seems to be sick until she suddenly and brutally attacks. At the same time outside, authorities begin sealing off the entrances to the building and threatening anyone who attempts to leave.
If you’ve seen the trailer or ads for this movie, it’s another first-person real-life shaky-camera film, as if you’re watching the raw footage as it really happened. This serves double-duty in the horror genre because “found footage” implies something bad must have happened to whomever shot and left it. While there are a few clever ideas (including the implied explanation and a few first-person beat downs), the limitations of the premise and location restricts the story, leaving a predictable plot with few surprises other than exactly when something with teeth pops out at you and how brutal the gore of an attack will be. Simply put, there was neither enough horror nor drama to fill the running time.
The apartment building itself is a who’s-who of victims, but none fully developed enough to actually care what happens to them. There’s the medical guy who suspects what’s happening to provide something of an explanation, the uncooperative business type who thinks gathering everyone in one location rather barricading themselves individually is a bad idea (he’s right, of course), and a host of politically-correct ethnic diversity throughout the four-floor tenement. Only Steve Harris, playing the cameraman you can only hear since he’s filming the event, seems to have the head of a survivor and the leadership skills to guide the others; too bad that’s all wasted on the reporter as her character slides further and further into despair with each addition to the body count. Like Cloverfield, it’s as if the film is more intent on being an experience rather than bothering to tell a story, although Cloverfield found plenty of other ways to mix those story elements in that Quarantine left neglected.
Underdeveloped and predictable, there is little compelling about the film other than the premise and a few of the kills. Similar to the problems that dragged down The Strangers, the lulls between these bursts of creativity just can’t fill the gaps of space making up the bulk of the ninety-minute running time. If the reporter were written stronger, or if perhaps the cameraman handed the camera over to her so her could lead the way, perhaps it would have been more interesting and less by-the-numbers. With so much missed opportunity, the film practically screams for a movie geek to show up, poking his head out from his DVD-filled apartment long enough to shout, “Shoot them in the head!” before barricading himself inside to read “The Zombie Survival Guide” under his bed sheets with a flashlight (and he’d probably have survived, too).
(a recommended one and a half skulls out of four)