Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Quarantine 2: Terminal

Okay, now that the introduction is out of the way I get to talk about my true love, which is zombies!! I'll probably frequently have a review or something up about a movie, show, book, or comic that is zombie-related. If I stumble onto one, I might link to a science article about real-life zombies, or something cool like that zombie house (which, I'm skeptical about as a long-term dwelling during a zombie apocalypse, but we can talk about that later).

The most recent film I've seen is Quarantine 2: Terminal, directed by John Pogue, and the sequel of the excellent 2008 remake (of the Spanish film [REC]) Quarantine. I've seen both versions of the first film and enjoyed them both. It's been a couple of years, so I can't really distinguish the two in my mind, except that I remember having a slight preference for the Spanish one, probably because I'm a snob who likes subtitles. I know that there's a [REC] sequel, but I haven't seen it yet, and I'm told it's vastly different from Terminal.

On it's own, I think Terminal is an okay genre flick. The action is action-y, the zombies are zombie-y. I appreciate that they tried to capture some of the features of the first film: the first scenes are shot with a slightly shaky, documentary feel, and there's a night-vision goggles gimmick that comes in at the end. The creators of Terminal were at least somewhat familiar with the source material, and there aren't really any giant missteps in the execution.

The plot follows the passengers and crew of an airplane that's leaving LA roughly at the time all hell is breaking loose in the first film. One of the passengers gets infected, the plane has to land, and then they're picked off one by one in the titular quarantined terminal. As a premise, it isn't bad, but even from the start I just didn't feel caught up in it. The film tries to build tension early on: one character has a cold, another sneezes. People talk about how the dogs in their neighbourhood are sick with something. I'm sure one character says that he's one day away from retirement on the force and hopes no one shoots him before he can go home to his family. Okay, not that last one, but there's a period early on where every bit of dialogue is forcing the tension so much that it makes suspending disbelief really difficult. There's a spunky kid, there's a hot-head, there's an old guy with Parkinsons, pretty much the usual round-up of "every day" people you see in these zombie movies.

It reaches moments of truly bad when 2 characters almost get into a fistfight over using a cell phone on a plane. I mean, who does that? Who is so wound up that they go off like that when no one is actually a zombie yet? Turns out there's a good reason, but at the time it just seemed so implausible and clumsy that I can't really credit it as good filmmaking.

The whole film seems like that: there's some good ideas, but the film either over-plays or under-plays its hand. There was some effort to give the characters more than cardboard personalities, but it -feels- like there was effort, you know?

The first Quarantine films got a lot of mileage out of, well, the quarantine. When the feds step in, even before you meet any of the characters, the quarantine feels like an actual force: the plastic falling over the windows, the locked doors, the lights and sirens outside all add to the atmosphere of claustrophobia. Terminal fails to live up to this. There are scenes that echo the scenes in the first: the plastic draping the windows, the authorities entering the building in their space-suits, but they seem tacked on, as if the filmmakers knew they had to hit those points but didn't really have an enthusiasm for it.

The action was decent, and if this is your first zombie film you may be caught off-guard by one or two of the "twists", but the film just didn't rise to the level where I could suspend my disbelief. Every zombie flick has a few scenes where the characters are behaving stupidly, or the "science" or internal logic doesn't add up (eg, in the first films, the initial victims seem to take hours or days before becoming monsters, but by the end you get bitten and are a monster in, like, a few seconds. How?? Why??)...a good film keeps the action and the fun and the general quality high enough that you can forgive any lapses, and Terminal just doesn't do that.

I was expecting to make comparisons to "Flight of the Living Dead", since zombie-airplane movies are still a rarity, but they really aren't even in the same category. "Flight", while maybe not as Hollywood-slick as Terminal, has a really firm grasp of what's best about zombie movies, and it has a sense of humour and a sense of, for lack of a better word, soul, that Terminal just can't capture.

In the end (terminal, get it?), Quarantine 2: Terminal gets a few things right, but a lot of the rest is lackluster. I give it 2 rotting fingers out of five.

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