So, I’ve done a couple of “Then vs Now” posts about remakes. Lately, well… okay not lately, I’ve noticed certain horror films were inspired by films of the same nature in other countries. This concept intrigues me. I want to know how similar/different the opposing titles are. Is it the exact same story for American audiences, or did the American filmmakers take liberties to make it their own? [There will be spoilers]
Released 11/23/2007 Rated: R
The story, if you’re unfamiliar with either of these, is that a local TV crew (the cameraman and the reporter) is shooting an episode of a late night show at the local fire department. A call comes in about a situation at an apartment complex. They tag along with the firemen to check it out, only to be trapped inside when things turn bloody. An infection is spreading, turning the tenants of the building into zombies, and all of it is caught on camera.
There are a few things I appreciate with this version. The first being Angela’s need to get the story. She immediately goes into reporter-mode: talking to the audience, going through the details, making sure they catch everything and make it presentable. At the same time, Angela’s confusion and panic are real; she screams and freaks out as much as anyone else around her, but she does a good job at reigning it in when she needs to and being a productive member of the group trapped in the apartment complex. In the American version she follows the same steps, but I don’t feel the commitment. American Angela is very quiet and in shock until the very end when she has a full blown panic attack.
Another thing this movie does right is the tenants. There are fewer of them here than there are in the American version, which works. They all seem to know each other, have clear personalities, and show animosity towards each other which all comes from living in such proximity to one another. Cesar isn’t fond of the Chinese family. Mrs. Carmen has a temper, is quick to blame everyone else, and gets very defensive when the finger is pointed in her direction. The old couple feels like an old couple; talking over each other and arguing, yet knowledgeable of the building. I legitimately feel as if I’ve just entered an apartment building full of actual tenants; it feels real. In the American version, however, there are more people to keep track of, which gives everyone less screen time. It’s hard enough to keep track of everyone as it is without barely catching names, and no one really having any distinguishing personality traits.
Released 10/10/2008 Rated: R
While there were a few changes to the American version, the story ultimately stayed the same. The main difference being the cause of the outbreak. In the middle of this movie, the veterinarian (which was changed from a medical intern) says it’s rabies; an advanced form of rabies that takes minutes, not hours, to activate. If the cause is rabies, a declaration the remaining cop and fireman ignore until the CDC show up, why isn’t anyone worried about all the dogs roaming the building! Seriously, so many pets were loose! And while I prefer the Spanish version’s explanation, I kind of don’t mind the switch, but now the ending makes absolutely no sense.
Angela and Scott (Pablo in the Spanish version) make it up to the penthouse to escape all the zombies running up the stairs toward them. In the Spanish version the room is covered in pictures and newspaper clippings of this Puerto Rican girl who got sick and vanished from the hospital, some clippings even talking about demon possession, and there are religious pictures and artifacts around the room. But in the American film, the room is full of individually caged rats with a few newspaper clippings on the walls of doomsday-disease-type stuff. Both versions have a tape recorder buried beneath piles of papers on the differentiating research, but in the American version it only plays at very slow speed, sounding like demonic noise, whereas in the Spanish version we hear that the guy who owns the penthouse state that he had possession of the girl, was studying what happened to her, and determined that he had to kill her.
From here both versions are the same. Angela and Scott/Pablo enter the next room containing a bloody operating table. A trap door in the ceiling breaks open. Scott/Pablo sticks the camera up there to see if it’s safe. Turn 360°, jump-scare, creepy kid swipes at the camera, breaking the camera’s light bulb which was their only source of light. Fumble in the blackout. Scott/Pablo switches to night vision, pulls Angela out of the way as a really tall, emaciated creature starts banging on shit with a hammer. Creature gets Scott/Pablo. Unseen creature drags Angela across the floor and out of the shot. The entirety of this scene in the American version is basically trying to see around Angela’s head as she’s in complete freak-out mode and demands the light shine on her instead of around the room to find answers. The camera seems to be stuck on an extreme close-up, and it gets old super quick. There’s really no way to focus on anything in the room, which lessens the mystery!
Now, in the Spanish version we can assume that the attempt to kill the girl (who supposedly has been hidden in the attic for years) didn’t work. The guy probably left her up there to starve to death as a last resort. But in the American version, I want to know who the fuck is in the attic??!! Is it supposed to be the guy who owns the penthouse? Because judging by the state of that creature, that doesn’t make a lick of sense. 1) This creature has obviously been there a long time; I’d say longer than three months, which is how long it’s been since anyone has seen the guy who owns said penthouse. 2) The creature is obviously female. I mean, I suppose you could argue that, but…I’m not willing to study this any further. 3) There’s no reason for anyone to be up there unless the guy went straight from experimenting on rats to humans. And if that’s the case, since we’re supposing he’s developing this to release it on the public, why lock someone up there? Was this a cure gone bad? Were there no safety measures set in place? How stupid was this person to do this in an apartment complex??
There are only two things I prefer more in the American version. The first is that Scott is a character more than just the camera. We see him from time to time instead of just his shoe, and he plays more of a part in the story. The second is that the military actually gets involved in keeping everyone inside the building. A sniper on a neighboring roof takes out one of the guys trying to get through a window! In the Spanish version, no one really gets past the warning of “Don’t make me shoot you.”
Overall, I’d say [REC] is the better choice; it feels more natural, and just flows better. There is an English dub of the movie on the DVD if you’re not one for dealing with subtitles, but in my opinion, it’s an awful dub. I tried, but I had to switch it back to Spanish with subtitles. LOL