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As someone who was not overwhelming fond of John Erick Dowdle’s “Quarantine” — a decidedly pointless remake of directors Jaume Balagueró and Paco Plaza Spanish language horror outing “[Rec]” — you wouldn’t think that I would be the least bit interested in its sequel. After all, I’m not exactly keen on wasting my precious time these days, especially when there are several potentially outstanding movies currently on my must-see list. However, despite my initial misgivings about the picture, I was pleasantly surprised to find that, although not without its shortcomings, “Quarantine 2: Terminal” is a far superior film than its predecessor, and ranks as one of the best American horror sequels I’ve seen in quite some time. Surprised? I am too, my friend. I am, too.
The lovely Mercedes Masöhn stars as Jenny, a flight attendant who is preparing to embark on yet another seemingly routine flight aboard a lightly-populated commuter plane. Her passengers include a wide variety of colorful, overplayed stereotypes, including a crippled senior citizen, a crazy cat lady, a smart-ass 13 year-old, an extremely overweight golfer, and a young couple who literally cannot keep their hands off one another. Also on-board for take-off is a square-jawed twenty-something teacher who insists on stuffing his hamsters in the overhead compartment. Since their cage won’t fit comfortably into its assigned space, the chap is forced to send his furry companions into the plane’s cargo hold. Meanwhile, the aforementioned cat lady’s feline friend is allowed to run free. Discrimination? You tell me.
Almost as soon as the group has ascended into the clouds, our beefy golfer begins experiencing some perplexing medical issues. After projectile vomiting onto Jenny and nearly sending the poor girl into hysterics, the infected athlete becomes violently enraged at everyone around him. The big bastard wants off the plane immediately, and he’s not above crushing anyone in his path to get precisely what he wants. It takes almost everyone aboard the flight to subdue the golfer while the pilots make an emergency landing at a nearby airport. However, upon arrival, it’s clear that something isn’t quite right. Apparently the entire terminal has been locked down by the CDC, a decision which may or may not be related to the events from the first film. Without a proper leader to guide them, all of the passengers start freaking out. What’s worse: A legion of infected, blood-thirty monsters begins hunting them down one by one.
Instead of reaching into the inky black bowels of “[Rec] 2″ for inspiration, writer/director John Pogue’s made the extremely wise decision to take the series in an entirely new direction. Additionally, he’s ditched the “found footage” gimmick for a more straight-forward approach. This change of pace was more than welcomed, as I felt “Quarantine” didn’t execute this device particularly well. Save for a finale that borrows heavily from both its wonky counterpart and “Silence of the Lambs”, “Terminal” is a by-the-numbers horror flick in terms of overall presentation. However, what the picture lacks in terms of visual style and character development it certainly makes up for in suspense and surprises. Pogue may not be reinventing the genre with this endeavor, but he knows how to keep things interesting.
The film’s success is hinged entirely on its cast, all of whom make the picture’s weaker moments easier to navigate. Most of “Terminal’s” problems exist towards the front end of the story. Instead cutting to the proverbial chase, Pogue and company decide to take their time getting to the good stuff, I’m assuming in hopes of allowing the audience to connect with the survivors. Had the script given us some life-like characters in which to invest these emotions, perhaps this approach would have worked. Instead, the first twenty minutes are rather slow, though patient viewers will be thoroughly rewarded with an abundance of action-packed, infection-oriented tomfoolery. I recall jumping on several occasions, which is a rarity in this day and age.
Although “Quarantine 2: Terminal” is essentially a rehash of the first film in a new setting, there is certainly enough originality and imagination packed into the last forty minutes to warrant a strong recommendation. Even if you hated “Quarantine” with an undying passion, you may find yourself enjoying its sequel in spite of yourself. Pogue, along with his splendid cast, has taken the franchise in an interesting direction, and I hope the next installment learns from “Terminal’s” small collection of mistakes. Here my advice to whose of you who think I’m completely off my rocker: Pretend the inexcusably poor first entry doesn’t exist and treat this superior sequel as a stand-alone story. Trust me when I say it’s for the better.
John Pogue (director) / John Pogue (screenplay)
CAST: Mercedes Masöhn … Jenny
Mattie Liptak … George
Josh Cooke … Henry
George Back … Ralph
Bre Blair … Paula
Phillip DeVona … Nial
Julie Gribble … Susan
Judd Lormand … Sylvester
Erin Smith … Nicca
Lamar Stewart … Preston
Noree Victoria … Shilah