Quarantine 2: Terminal (2011)

Ready to have your mind blown? Zombie movies…are dead. I know, my provocative genius frightens me sometimes, too.

I’ll never stop loving zombie movies, even lousy ones. But the sad fact is that the current explosion in the popularity of zombies and the attendant resurgence of quality zombie movies are both winding down.

I trace this most recent trend to 2004, when both the remake of Dawn of the Dead and Shaun of the Dead came out. Both movies were outstanding and, more importantly, financially successful. Together they revitalized a genre that had been ignored by Hollywood for years. [EDIT: A few days after I posted this I had the chance to talk with io9’s Annalee Newitz, who reminded me that 28 Days Later came out before either of these movies. I was sure it was later but she was totally right. It hit the U.K. in late 2002 and got its wide release in the U.S. in June 2003. But I realize now that neither of us remembered Resident Evil, which came out in March 2002, well before 28 Days. That’s what I get for skimping on the research.]

Of course, even before studios started once again throwing wads of cash at zombie features, they were still being made at a prodigious rate. In 2003, even before Dawn and Shaun, there were no less than 27 zombie movies big enough to merit IMDB pages. The successes of 2004 drove that number up every year until 2010, which saw more than 60. But in 2011? Just 18, almost none of which had a prayer of securing a theatrical release.

I'll show you dead.

I’m sure we’ll get a few more A-list zombie flicks. I have high hopes for Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, and World War Z has all the makings of a blockbuster. But the heyday, at least the present one, has passed. If either of those movies fails to live up to box office expectations, no studio will finance a zombie movie for more than $5 million, which is approximately as much as Reese Witherspoon’s dog got for Legally Blonde 2.

Now that The Walking Dead has finally been brought to the (small) screen, there isn’t much of the zombie mythos left to explore on film. In a way, Robert Kirkman’s exhaustively detailed, ongoing masterpiece is too good, since it leaves little room for anything in the live-action zombie landscape but ironic gimmicks and outlandish situations. (Speaking of which, has anybody done paratrooper zombies? Like you drop them over North Korea and just wall the place up while the virus runs its course? SOMEBODY PAY ME FOR THAT.)

We’re headed into a bleak period in the history of zombie movies. From here on out we can only hope to find the odd high-quality indie (looking at you, Deadgirl) amid a sea of crap movies that aim no higher than bargain DVD sales and 2 a.m. SyFy airings. Sadly, despite an impressive pedigree and a strong start, Quarantine 2 is closer to the latter.

Zombies? Are you sure you wouldn't like to try something in a nice vampire?

The story: While a Los Angeles apartment building is systematically cut off from the outside world by the Centers for Disease Control, passengers on a late night flight out of LAX are about to learn that one of them is carrying more than luggage. That’s…yeah, that’s pretty much it.

Biggest letdown: I don’t know why I expected more from Quarantine 2, but for a while it actually had me thinking I was right to. The original Quarantine was an almost shot-for-shot remake of the fantastic Spanish movie [REC], which did the found footage thing better than any zombie movie before or since. [REC] has become a franchise in Spain and since Quarantine was so good, I was fooled into thinking its sequel might also be worth a shit. WRONGZO.

Oh lone black guy, don't stand so close to the front.

Quarantine 2 goes to great lengths to make its menagerie of characters memorable: a pair of horny Germans, a fat guy who adorably brings his own seatbelt extender in paper bag, a bossy financier, a punk kid, etc. While you never lose track of who’s who, all these quirks turn the passengers into one-dimensional caricatures. In a good zombie movie, the gore and terror draw you in. You stay to the end because there are characters you don’t want to see eaten alive. Without compelling personalities, all the frenetic, wannabe Tony Scott (ugh) camera work in the world can’t imbue the final half hour with any measurable sense of anxiety. That’s more of a problem than any technical failings, which are forgivable by-products of a lean budget.

Yes, your breasts are amazing. I still don't care if you live or die.

One issue that has nothing to do with budget though: if you want to recreate the terrifying helplessness of the night-vision sequences from [REC] and Quarantine, it helps to actually turn the lights out. It’s unfair to ask the audience to believe the characters can’t see who’s standing next to them when we can still read the time on their watches.

Nice outfits. Where do you park a spaceship around here?

Why you should watch: I won’t say this is a diamond in the rough because it’s not. Quarantine 2 screws up most everything that matters and it’s missing all the elements that made [REC] and Quarantine great. But in its defense, it does function as a standalone movie so you don’t need to have seen Quarantine to understand what’s happening. Also, it’s not a stretch to say this is the most competent English language zombie release of the year. Like I said, there haven’t been many so it’s slim pickings if, like me, you need to feed your undead addiction.

Slim Pickens? Racist.

Quarantine 2 does do a number of minor things surprisingly well, including a great opening act that features so many red herrings you can’t help but be on edge about where the infection will come from. Is it the co-pilot with the flu? The feverish pregnant lady? The hyperactive cat that usually “never leaves the apartment?” I admit I’m no good at guessing things like that but for what it’s worth I was surprised when the actual carrier was revealed. Small victories, people.

Fucking kids.

Memorable Moment: In a biting commentary on the treatment of seniors in this country, the surviving passengers debate the best strategy for escape, completely oblivious to the wheelchair-bound elderly gentlemen being stalked by an infected rat. He can see it inching closer but he’s unable to get anyone’s attention because advanced Parkinson’s has robbed him of the ability to speak or stand on his own. When they finally take a break from their selfish whining to notice what’s happening, the poor guy has already suffered a nasty bite to the dome. The final touch on the film’s scathing rebuke of the U.S. health care system: the younger generation’s solution is to lock grandpa up in a luggage cart and go back to dealing with their own problems. The saddest part is it probably won’t stop him from bragging about them on bingo night.

Choice quote: “You ask me, it looked like some kinda fucked up rabies. People rabies!”

About the Rating System

2 Responses to “Quarantine 2: Terminal (2011)”

  1. […] Quarantine 2: Terminal – I know nothing about zombie movies. […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: