The last decade has seen the explosion of Asian cinema in the world stage. The films of John Woo, Johnnie To, Fruit Chan, the Pang Brothers, Wong Kar Wai and Ang Lee have enjoyed a growing worldwide audience that fully appreciates the new things that these Asian directors have contributed to cinema.
Aside from the Asian art cinema contingent, another contribution of Asian cinema during the last ten years is the reinvigoration of the horror genre. The last ten years has also seen a spate of Asian horror movies that have redefined what is scary and how to give show it in fresh, delightfully ghoulish ways. Before the Asians, horror movies mostly followed the Hollywood formula of tricky camera angles so that “surprise” images will jolt the audience. The Asians went the opposite route and delivered slowburn horror movies that build on the dread without any clear directions of what will happen. And the imagery that is brought to film is truly horrifying indeed without even showing blood or entrails.
Not surprisingly though, the Asian horror genre has been suffering from too much exposure. Fresh ideas are coming in fewer amounts. But it looks like another continent may yet claim the title of horror capital of the world.
Europe has been quietly churning out horror movies that evoke the Asian horror explosion. Films from France and Spain are gaining a lot of popularity among horror fans. One particular movie that should be mentioned, which I saw this week was Rec.
Rec is a Spanish horror movie that relies on the cinema verite style that was successfully used in both Blair Witch Project and more recently Cloverfield. The movie is a tour de force in horror, one that brings you in an ever increasing spiral downwards towards horror and madness. The movie starts off with a woman reporter and her cameraman filming footage for a TV show. They are following the lives of firemen as they go through their midnight shift. Things were proving to be uneventful until a call comes in about an old woman who may have been injured. The media people tag along for the call and upon entering the building they discover that it is far from a routine call and that they have been locked inside the building by government authorities who fear there may be a deadly infection inside the building.
This is where the story really picks up and the sense of dread and helplessness pervade the whole movie. No one knows what is happening outside and the situation inside the building is fast turning from bad to worse. The film effectively brings the audience within the milieu and involves them through the creative use of the camera. One good thing about Rec is that the jerky camera movements have been kept to a minimum, which will surely delight those who complain and whine about how dizzying Cloverfield was. The story, too, is quite easy to follow and no convoluted plot twists were used. The only twist would be the sudden change in direction from scientific to paranormal. But this too was quite effective as it threw a curveball at the audience – one that they least expected.
Rec is a horror movie that should be seen by movie fans. Watch it before the inevitable American remake is shown this year.
Rating: A –