A two person local TV crew, boasting more in the way of enthusiasm than cutting edge reportage credentials, look destined for a long, boring shoot when they join a Barcelona Fire Station night shift, there to tell the story of those who are hard at work “While You’re Asleep”.
So, when opportunity comes knocking bubbly reporter Ángela snatches it with both hands. She and cameraman Pablo hit the road alongside two friendly firemen, answering a quiet emergency call in an urban apartment block, finding a whole cluster of concerned residents waiting in the lobby – an old lady upstairs is trapped in her apartment and sounds like she’s in distress.
The firemen loudly break the door open right in the middle of Ángela’s link, but there is worse to come. That old lady is, how do you say… “a bit bitey“…
100% POV shaky-cam horror – is there anything more frighteningly now than this?
The “discovered footage” sub-genre of the ol’ seat-jumper automatically means a couple of things: first, productionally, it allows film-makers with less than overflowing pockets to compete with the CG-suite big boys, which is good because we need more little fish in the pond, there’s too many sharks going down on each other and that, as we see every time we set foot in a cinema, leads to horrific inbreeding; and second, entertainmentally, it throws the viewer directly into the world in question, which is great – provided you have created a world worth entering…
To say “it’s been done before” would not be a lie, nor would it be to say “it’ll be done again”. The thing that is done and the ways in which it is done are all very familiar, close friends of the schlock horrorficianado. But Dramas have all been done before, and so have Romances, and Actioners, and you name it. So are there any things [●REC] doesn’t do?
Well, for one, it doesn’t make you feel sea sick. At least I didn’t, which is more than I can say for Cloverfield, although camera motion may have had comparatively little to do with my nausea in that case. Although our eyes spend an hour-and-a-quarter running up stairwells and struggling manically with infecteds you don’t end up with a headache, unless the constantly screaming reporter’s voice fills that niche, and it might (speaking of which, y’know, “niche filling” – mmm, she’s a babe…).
Sorry. Anyway, what else? It doesn’t show you too much. The film-makers walk the fine line between revealing the horror and forcing you to imagine it pretty well; and, also unlike Cloverfield, when you do glimpse something nasty you don’t always get the impression they wanted you to and made sure that you would.
It doesn’t over-reach itself. There is an element of believability in it, particularly in the opening scenes and the convincingly normal reactions of people simply being confronted with a camera. In fact, these reactions remain convincing even when things start to go all cuhrazy, although I felt as a reporter the heroine wasn’t great and as a TV show – even by Spanish standards – “While You Sleep” wouldn’t be likely to make it to a screen near you without blood being sprayed all over the place.
There are genuinely creepy touches to balance the moments when you think hmmm; some of the infection reveals are a bit misguided, some on the other hand are chilling. Yes, sometimes a guy borrows a sign from Wiley Coyote that reads Dead Man Walking Here and the only screaming you are doing is “hey, stupid” – but occasional lapses aside, I liked it. Take your timid girlfriend to the back row and see if she wants to cling to your arm, maybe do a little necking, get an infection…