Triple Quickie Reviews: Quarantine 2: Terminal, Devil’s Playground, and Attack the Block


Quarantine 2: Terminal is the 2011 horror sequel to 2008’s Quarantine which was a remake of the much better Spanish horror film [Rec]. This sequel goes off on it’s own different path instead of just remaking the sequel which followed the Spanish film. As directed by John Pogue this sequel dumps the “found footage” style of the first film and instead just goes for a traditional film style. The film also goes it’s own way in explaining how it ties into the previous film.

Where the Spanish sequel had it’s events set at the same place this time around we find our new cast of characters on-board a red-eye flight from Los Angeles to Nashville that soon gets diverted to Las Vegas when one of the passengers suddenly becomes violently ill. Once they land the film mirrors the first film in that the surviving passengers, crew and a lone airport maintenance crewmember get locked in the terminal they’re at. The very bio-weapon that was unwittingly unleashed in the apartment complex in the first film has made it onto the flight and one by one the cast succumbs to it’s “rage zombie”-like symptoms.

Quarantine 2 is not an awful as some would like to tell people, but it is also not a good film. It’s pretty average with little to no tension or scary surprises. It’s a horror film almost done by check-list.  We also don’t get fully realized individuals to root for so that when one becomes infected there’s no sense of loss. In fact, there’s not even a character to root against. That’s how bland the characters ended being in this film. The story itself has built on the details presented about the virus in the first film and it’s an interesting premise that deserved a better film. Maybe a couple years from now the series will get rebooted and remade Bollywood-style and get some energy into it.

 

Moving onto a much better film that also share’s the above film’s fast-moving “zombie”-like infected is 2010’s Devil’s Playground by British horror filmmaker Mark McQueen. It is set in present-day London where it begins in medias res a hard-looking man all bloodied going by the name of Cole (played by Craig Fairbass) who uses a computer’s webcam to record the events which has transpired to bring him to his current state.

We soon go back to the beginning of the crisis which starts from the human-testing of a new drug by the pharmaceutical company N-Gen. Of the 30,000 test-subjects only one doesn’t succumb to the deadly side-effects of the drug which causes those injected to transform into ravening, cannibalistic killers who also happen to have had their agility amplified that they’re able to parkour their way towards the uninfected.

Yes, you heard right, parkour zombies. That gimmick alone attached to the current trend of fast-moving zombies gives this film an edge over most fast-running zombie films.

Devil’s Playground doesn’t just try to make things interesting with a new brand of zombie-infected killers, but manages to create a story around the usual “man on a mission” plot. Cole has to find the only test subject who didn’t succumb to the experimental drug’s side-effects in hopes that this person carries the means to help end the spread of the virus. The cast itself helps in making this horror film rise above the usual dreck that gets released on video. While I’ve never been a fan of British “tough guy” actor Danny Dyer he wasn’t as annoying in this film as he is in others and it’s due to the performance by Craig Fairbass as the hardened mercenary Cole which makes Dyer’s dishonored cop Joe from chewing everything in the scene he appears in.

Director Mark McQueen does a good job in keeping the story moving forward even as he juggles subplot involving a couple of London river cops trying to find a safe haven in a city that’s going through a deadly crisis of apocalyptic proportion. Even the free-running zombies don’t come across as laughable and at times even come across as quite horrifying when Cole and his small band of survivors try to move from haven to haven in the hopes of getting the one who may be the key to solving the crisis to the right people.

Devil’s Playground may not join the ranks of the classic zombie films since Romero’s Night of the Living Dead changed the world of horror in 1968, but it manages to be both entertaining and scary despite the parkour zombies.

 

The best of this triple-bill of horror comes courtesy of one of 2011’s festival darlings. Attack the Block by writer-director Joe Cornish was able mash together scifi, horror and comedy and do so seemlessly. It’s a genre-busting film that doesn’t lean too heavily on either three but allows the great script written by Cornish to dictate when the horror begins and when it transitions to some sharp comedic scenes and dialogue.

This is a film that could’ve sunk under the weight of it’s cast of British teen and child actors, but instead gains much of it’s appeal from these fresh, young faces. Even for those across the Atlantic in the US the British slang used by the kids in the film doesn’t confuse as much as it could. The writing and performances by these kids (especially by John Boyega as the teen gang leader Moses) don’t come across as forced, but flow naturally from scene to scene. Their reactions to finding and killing what turns out to be an alien looks and sound exactly how any group of young hoodlums and ragamuffins would have. In fact, some of the film’s funnier scenes was due to how each of them arm themselves in their attempt to protect the block of apartments they all live in.

It wouldn’t be an alien invasion film of any quality if we didn’t get some memorable aliens. Fortunately we do get aliens that come across not just menacing, but also not fake looking. Nothing takes an audience away from suspending their disbelief and enjoying a film than a badly pulled off visual effect. Cornish and his effects crew use a combination of practical and CG effects to bring to life a horde of alien invaders who look like a cross between apes and the ball of fur and teeth from the 80’s cheesetastic scifi-horror film series Critters.

Attack the Block doesn’t skimp on the death and destruction. The film doesn’t treat the young characters with kid’s gloves either as they’re not exempt from the mortal danger posed by the aliens who have invaded their Block. The fact that each character (both young and old) were written to be rounded characters with distinct personalities that we feel each death no matter how minor the role. It’s a rare horror film that actually made great use of character development in-between scenes of action and terror. Even during those particular scenes each character on the screen adds a new layer of complexity to the role. This is a testament to director Joe Cornish who also wrote the excellent screenplay. The fact that this was his feature film debut as a director also makes Attack the  Block such a surprise wonder.

So, our tally for today when it comes to the three films mentioned above would come down to….

Quarantine 2: Terminal – Pass (watch on Netflix Instant if there’s nothing else to watch)

Devil’s Playground – Definite Watch (can be seen through Netflix Instant)

Attack the Block – Must-See (buy the blu-ray to add to your collection or rent if you’re not into that)

Lisa Marie Deals With Intruders (dir. by Juan Carlos Fresnadillo)


Earlier this month, I saw Intruders, the latest film from director Juan Carlo Fresnadillo.  Spanish horror films are currently the trendy genre to love and Intruders has everything that we’ve come to expect from Spanish horror: creepy children, gothic atmosphere, claustrophobic staging, ineffectual representatives of the Church, and a feeling that the society of the present is held hostage by the sins of the past. 

Intruders tells two parallel stories about two children who are haunted by a malevolent, faceless spirit known as Hollowface.  Hollowface comes out at night and searches for a new face (and who can blame him, really?).  As the film opens, he is haunting a young boy (Izan Corchero) and his mother (Pilar Lopez de Ayala) in Spain.  The boy deals with his fear of Hollowface by writing a lengthy story about him.  Meanwhile, in England, 12 year-old Mia (Ella Purnell) finds a copy of the boy’s story in an empty tree stump and reads it aloud.  Shortly after doing this, she starts to see Hollowface in the shadows of her bedroom.  The only person who believes her is her father (played by Clive Owen).  The film proceeds to cut back-and-forth between these two haunted children until finally, in its final few minutes, the two stories come together. 

Intruders starts out strong but then quickly starts to fall apart.  As a malevolent force, Hollowface is effective as long as he’s just a shadowy figure floating through childish nightmares but, as the film progresses, he becomes less and less intimidating until finally he’s just another poorly defined villain in a costume.  By that same token, Fresnadillo’s direction is nicely atmospheric and creepy during the first half of the film but then, as the two parallel stories come together, the film starts to feel more and more generic.  The two stories are, of course, linked together by a big twist.  Oddly enough, even though I managed to guess the twist, it still felt like it came out of close-to-nowhere. 

That said, Intruders isn’t a disaster.  The film is fairly well-acted (especially by Clive Owen, who in a perfect world would be playing James Bond in Skyfall) and even once the narrative falls apart, Fresnadillo still comes up with the occasional effective shock.  Even if I wasn’t familiar with Fresnadillo’s previous films, I would probably take a chance on his next movie.

Just as long as it’s not The Return of Hollowface or anything like that.