Diary of the Dead - Low quality
But when they're done well - and a large part of that is probably down to quality writing - they can be pretty scary. Paranormal Activity and The Blair Witch Project spring to mind (despite suffering from the justification issue) along with the film that I will finally get around to reviewing: Rec.
The rather attractive Angela Vidal (Manuela Velasco) is filming an episode of her multi award winning, ratings sensation, While You're Asleep. Sounds great. She follows some firefighters around for an evening to see what they get up to. When the alarm sounds she doesn't even get the chance to slide down the pole, due to the stroppy camera bloke whinging about not being able to get down it and still hold on to his camera. I'd have said, "See you down there sucker!" and slid down in true Ghostbusters style. Back to the plot: they arrive at a house where a pensioner is trapped in her apartment. After they've forced entry, the old lady in question is found, swaying around a bit. Then she turns rather disagreeable and helps herself to a prime piece of cop neck. The firefighter then whips out his hose and sprays her down. (Maybe the last part possibly might not actually occur in the film, but I couldn't resist another chance to include a double entendre.)
The success of Rec hinges on whether it delivers the scares. So how does it do? It does okay. In Paranormal Activity, Oren Peli knew the terrifying potential of stairs. Here, the directors use a long corridor to similar effect. It's somehow much scarier to have someone haring at you down a long corridor than just across a room. They will have built up a lot more momentum and it also allows more time for thinking about the carnage they're going to cause on impact. So it's the threat of something happening in the corridor that makes it so tense. The ending ramps up the tension as the camera switches to another stalwart of found footage films, the night-vision mode. At least here, it all gets very creepy due to some excellent zombie design.
Rec doesn't look like it's been shot quickly. There are some long takes used that are well-acted and must have taken ages to rehearse. The effects are nicely done too. They're not overly designed and look pretty grimy and dirty. All in all it's a professionally made product.
There is an American remake that I had a quick flick through on YouTube and it looks virtually identical (at least in the shots that I looked at), but they called it Quarantine instead. I wonder how many people have been caught out watching it thinking it's a different film and then realising that it's just Rec. I think I've ranted before about pointless remakes and people shying away from subtitles and world cinema so I won't bother mentioning it in this review.
Rec is not quite as scary as I'd have liked. It's not the first time I've seen it but I can't remember it being any jumpier on my initial viewing. I enjoyed it though and I wouldn't mind seeing the sequels (although I have been warned against this - maybe one day I'll get round to them).
If you like this you could also try:
Paranormal Activity, Lake Mungo.