Film Reviews

[REC] (2007) – Blu-ray Review

Let’s open with a simple question. If you already own [REC] on Blu-ray, should you buy this new Arrow release to replace it?

[REC], if you haven’t encountered it before, is a Spanish found footage horror film directed by Jaume Balagueró and Paco Plaza which was released all the way back in 2007.  It still holds up damn well today thanks to great casting, direction, and effects work.

It follows the story of a TV film crew who are following the goings-on during the night shift of the Barcelona fire brigade. Called out to attend what appears to be a fairly humdrum situation in a local apartment block, things suddenly take a sharp turn into the horrific when the elderly woman they’ve been sent to assist suddenly attacks and badly injures a policeman. From this point on events spiral ever downward and the residents find themselves trapped, isolated from the outside world by layers of plastic and special forces troops determined to keep them inside.

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[REC] is a masterclass in found footage film making. Gloriously claustrophobic, wonderfully gory, with layers upon layers of tension piled relentlessly onto the characters and the audience, culminating in a final shot that’s deservedly lauded as one of the most memorable in modern horror.

What do we get with this Arrow release? First off you get two different versions of the film. There’s the ‘theatrical version’ (24fps, 1080p, 78 mins) which is, as you might guess, the version that was shown in cinemas and which was on the original Blu-ray release back in 2010. Along with this, however, is the ‘production version’ (25fps, 1080i, 75 mins) which is noticeably different. Both are filmed in high-def, but the production version has far less film grain and a cleaner, sharper image than the theatrical, even though it was filmed in 1080i rather than 1080p. Really which one you prefer is entirely a matter of personal choice.

What else is new for this release? Well… not a great deal. Other than the production release version the only brand new extra is an audio commentary by film critic and historian Alexandra Heller-Nicholas, the author of’ Found Footage Horror: Fear and the Appearance of Reality.

What this release does do, however, is consolidate all the special features that were found across multiple different prior versions, as some were released with more extras than others. This is, I believe, the first opportunity purchasers have had to get everything in one place, which is certainly to be lauded. At the same time, whether or not this is a selling point for you is going to depend on if you think the special features your particular version might be missing make it worth buying the movie again. This is always the problem with re-releases. There needs to be enough new content on offer to make it worth putting down the money again, and this time it’s a tough sell.

The theatrical version doesn’t seem to be any different from the original. Arrow don’t list it as a new transfer, the audio options are the same, the deleted scenes are the same, the interviews and making-of featurettes are the same. The production release is an interesting addition but it’s difficult to say that it’s truly essential. I suspect part of the problem is that the previous releases already had a plethora of special features that pretty much covered the entire spectrum of what you could possibly ask for. There was no real way for Arrow to add that much without duplicating what already existed.

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So who is this release for? Two kinds of people. For anyone who doesn’t already own a copy of [REC] then there is no reason to buy the older 2010 release over this one. This one is by far the superior product. It’s also for the hardcore collector, the one who has to have a truly COMPLETE version of the film and this is likely the closest that we’re going to get.

But is it an essential purchase? If you don’t own it then yes, you should buy this. [REC] is a brilliant film and any self-respecting horror fan should own it. But if you do already own it? Compare the features list and decide if you’re happy putting down another £18 to get the features your version might be missing.

Still a bloody great film, though. Even 14 years later.

[REC] is out now on Blu-ray from Arrow Video.

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