[REC] begins with a woman named Ángela (Manuela Velasco) and her cameraman, Pablo (Pablo Rosso), standing outside of a fire station. They’re working on a television series called While You’re Asleep, and have decided to make an episode dealing with firemen. She spends a lot of time interviewing random firemen, telling the camera that she wants the alarm to go so that she can go out on a mission.

We wouldn’t have a movie if nothing happened, so, soon enough, the alarm goes, and we’re inside of a fire truck. There has been a call about an elderly woman who has become trapped in her apartment. We arrive at the building, and the police are already there. A door is broken down, and we see the woman, who is just standing there. The camera’s light shines on her, and before you know it, someone has been bitten, and everyone has run downstairs. The rest of the residents are waiting there, and we’re all wondering what’s going on.

It gets worse: The police on the outside of the building have begun sealing it off. They’re under lockdown — a quarantine, if you will — and nobody is allowed outside. We have a couple of firemen, a police officer, and a group of civilians all locked inside. What’s the reason? The building may be infected, they’re told. It begins to make sense: That woman was probably infected. Oh, and the person she bit begins acting up as well. It’s spread by biting people. Or maybe just saliva, who knows?

I’ll give [REC] credit for this: It has a very solid premise. Locking a bunch of people in here with not-quite-zombies is an interesting and potentially horrifying idea for a horror movie. It’s also shot in shakycam, with Pablo and his camera being used by us to experience the events of the film. I always appreciate how few cuts are used in these types of films, and you have to hand it to the actors who can’t hide behind quick cuts to hide imperfections.

However, strip away the shakycam and the foreign language, and what do you have? A movie where a bunch of people are trapped in a location with a couple of things they don’t want anything to do with. This isn’t an innovative or creative movie, even if its premise could provide a bunch of scares. Unfortunately, it isn’t all that scary. I’m not sure why that is, but it’s missing a scary tone. It also lacks characters that you can actually care about. If I don’t care whether they live or die — or worse, if I actually want to see them killed off — then your movie is going to have difficulty scaring me.

Ángela, like many people given the situation, acts hysterically for almost the entire time she’s on-screen. However, she annoyed me before we got to the building, and once she made that first impression, screaming at every turn doesn’t help improve her standing with me. She never redeemed herself, and I was hoping for her death throughout. Maybe I’m a terrible person for hoping that, but this is a horror movie; people are going to die.

[REC] occasionally tries to be surprising, but it never actually is. There’s a “twist” regarding one of the residents which, if you don’t see it coming, you need to watch more horror movies, and there are also a couple of jump scares. Admittedly, one of them is really effective even though we know it’s coming, but most of them feel cheap and fail to startle because we barely see them thanks to the shaky camerawork. While this shooting style helps with immersion, it takes away from what we can see. That helps reduce the budget, but makes for a less effective horror movie. It’s a gamble and a double-edged sword which hampers [REC] more than it helps it.

This is also a far funnier film than it really should be. The pacing is quick, the tension for the characters is high, and the threat feel very real. The hysterics of the characters made me laugh. They’ll scream when it’s not really required, and act as silly as possible. The times when humans fight back against the infected look incredible fake, and because the tone never helped me feel scared, laughing came naturally. It seemed to me as if most of the budget came from the makeup department. The infected and their victims all look great, even if nothing else does.

The explanation that the film eventually gives us for this disease is unsatisfactory. It worked better when we didn’t know why it happened — although you can argue that we never truly find out. [REC] could have skipped out on this and saved itself a few minutes, although on further inspection, adding some time is probably why such a lengthy explanation scene was included in the first place. [REC] clocks in at just under 80 minutes, and probably would have been just over 70 if this scene was removed.

[REC] is a funny movie, but it’s not supposed to be. It contains characters I didn’t care about, is shot in a way that actually hinders its jump scares, and its hysterics lightened the mood too much for it to be effective as a horror film. The actors are all fine, and it has a few moments that will make you jump, but there’s no sense of dread and the explanation tacked-on at the end was unnecessary. I can’t recommend [REC], although I know a lot of people will disagree with me about that.