[REC] is set up to work on several levels. Most obviously it is a fairly standard zombie flick, where a captive group of individuals are systematically predated by an ever-growing number of neck-munchers. On this level at least the film has neither memorable fatalities nor eye-catching special effects, which is probably why the shot-for-shot English-language remake Quarantine will be one to pass on
[REC] is also another one of those 'found footage' horrors ostensibly shot by one of its potential victims, in much the same way we saw with Cloverfield and The Blair Witch Project.
Yet this is also where Balagueró achieves a degree of noteworthiness, for we are following the camera-eye-view of a late-night Spanish TV show called While You are Sleeping as their team tag along with a squad of Barcelona bomberos on what is anything but a routine call to an apartment block.
Balagueró crafts from this situation a satire on both reality TV tactics and on Spanish urban life. During pauses in the mayhem, bushy-tailed reporter Angela interviews some of the residents sealed into the zombies' new playground, including some Asian immigrants, a grumpy old couple and a poncy Argentine. Their observations on their predicament and about each other make highly entertaining viewing, especially to anyone who has ever tuned into TVe shows such as España Directo.
Like La Noche de Los Girasoles (a better movie in my opinion) there is something uniquely Spanish in the sensibility of [REC]. Where else could the explanation for this undeathly outbreak be presented as such a confounding blend of science and Catholicism gone bad? Parochial social satire is probably the USP of Balagueró's vision here, but as we saw with the adaptation of other European films (such as Les Visiteurs), it's precisely the sort of thing that tends to vanish on Atlantic crossings.
[REC] 2 is on its way apparently...