The recovered-video genre of horror ("The Blair Witch Project," "Cloverfield") may still have legs, but if "Quarantine" is any indication, they're wobbling.
The movie is based on the acclaimed Spanish film "[REC]" (unseen by this reviewer) and apparently hews quite closely to the original's plot except for the new film's far-less-interesting explanation of the deadly quandary. "Quarantine" starts promisingly, with Jennifer Carpenter displaying ample charm as a TV journalist trailing a firefighting crew. She and her cameraman accompany the crew to an apartment building in which a woman has been screaming and behaving strangely. It's no great reveal to describe the rest of the film as a slow-developing zombie movie with a culprit disease that, when initially identified, might elicit laughter.
The performances are generally pretty good, particularly those of Jay Hernandez ("Crazy/Beautiful") as a levelheaded firefighter and Columbus Short ("Stomp the Yard") as a less-balanced cop. The hand-held cinematography is not as vertigo-inducing as "Blair Witch" or "Cloverfield," but the film also doesn't achieve their claustrophobic, paranoid tunnel vision. There's no ground broken here and the dialogue is not memorable, but once the fur and fluids start flying, it does achieve a video-game-like enjoyability.
However, the movie is crippled by two horrible choices. Shame on the filmmakers for reducing one of the main characters to an incessantly whimpering, hyperventilating embodiment of fingernails on a chalkboard for what feels like the final third of the film. And shame as well upon the advance marketing department for blowing the end of the movie in ads, thus exorcising any ghost of a chance "Quarantine" had of issuing a surprise.
"Quarantine." MPAA rating: R for bloody violent and disturbing content, terror and language. Running time: 1 hour, 29 minutes. In general release.