My first exposure to Jaume Balagueró was the 2002 film Darkness. I saw it on pay-per-view in a hotel room because it spent about four minutes in theaters. I spent the night pretending I could sleep, but it was a lie.

I immediately tracked down the only other film made by Balagueró available in the United States at the time, The Nameless. I slept okay afterwards but it was better movie, it had better atmosphere and it built to to a brilliant climax.

To say the least I was a fan. In a fit of work inspired boredom and nerd related obsessive compulsive disorder (NROCD) I found out that Balagueró’s most recent work was zombie movie titled [rec], using a first-person in camera narrative style.

I waited for it to become available in the United States. And I waited some more. I found out it was being re-made as Quarantine, a shot-for-shot English language remake. I wasn’t really interested in the remake and since their existence usually means a kiss of death for any hope of DVD release of the original. I gave up hope of seeing it anytime soon.

Then through a stroke of luck a friend track down a copy and let me borrow it. I ended up watching it late at night, I had to get up early but I didn’t feel like go to bed yet. It was a mistake.

Have you ever gone to a restaurant and ordered something way to spicy for you (ghost mirch masala you are a wicked temptress) but it’s good and even though you know you’re in way over your head you keep eating? Even when the tears come?

That’s what watching [rec] was like. The film is about a documentary crew making a film about the local fire department, when they respond to a call it becomes clear all is not well. Some kind of infection has broken out amongst the buildings tenants. And soon the building is secured by the local authorities trapping the characters inside.

The in camera narrative style is typically used as gimmick and rarely to good effect (I’m looking at you Cloverfield) but [rec] actually puts it to good use. It works on two levels the first creates a sense that the film is an artifact the viewer has discovered breaking down the wall between the audience and the world of the film. The second is that it drastically limits the viewer’s field of perception. Sounds come from the distance but the cameraman doesn’t necessarily respond immediately, monsters come from outside the camera’s field of view. The result is that the viewer is always paranoid about what they can’t see.

Combining these elements with some excellent effects design and a brilliant location choice [rec] is one of the best horror films I’ve seen since John Carpenter went to crap.