There is an extent to which horror movies are in a rut. They mostly fall into three types right now: Japanese horror in which ghosts of small children with blank faces, badly maintained hair, and black eyes rush out of closets or wells or otherwise enclosed spaces to destroy your soul; torture films in which reasonless men capture vacationing teens and gradually vivisect them, usually without consequence and with no more than one survivor; and apocalypse horror in which some event has turned the world (or our diseased and dead brethren and sistren) against us. Frequently, these types will borrow tropes back and forth from each other. And of course there are movies coming out that play against these types, such as the Saw films. But the rut is visibly there now, over a decade beyond when Scream first invented the post-modern horror film, pulling the genre back from the brink of irrelevance.
The good news, though, is that the rut is nowhere near played out, and still provides far better quality than at any point since the 1970s. If anything, the cross-pollination between the types is improving things and keeping no one rut from getting all that deep. All of which is the long way around to mentioning that I saw Quarantine last week, I suppose, but the state of the genre is often on my mind as I think about what I have to say in these reviews. It’s undeniable that I’m excited to be seeing so much good quality coming out after I spent the ’90s in a video store wasteland being mocked mercilessly by all the people around me who weren’t able to see the potential I was so certain was there.
But, yeah, Quarantine, which as it turns out snagged tropes from across both aisles, was mostly a cross between the apocalypse type and a less common but very influential type I haven’t got around to mentioning yet, the camera-is-a-character type. Y’know, Blair Witch or Cloverfield. A plucky local-market TV reporter is on overnight assignment in a fire station when a 911 comes in about a woman screaming and otherwise behaving bizarrely in an apartment building. Fire and police are dispatched, with the camera doing ride-along duty, to discover all the inhabitants milling around, confused over the late night and the fuss. And just when they realize that things might be more dire than a mere disoriented elderly woman can account for, they also discover that the entire building has been sealed off, with nobody allowed to enter or exit upon threat of lethal force. And then the phones are jammed. And then, things start to go horribly wrong.
The one downside I should mention is that Quarantine is far more interested in the ride than the destination. This doesn’t really bother me much, because the confusion, sense of betrayal, and mounting-terror-as-character-study of the handful of people who are more than cardboard cutouts are more than enough to keep me happy. And although the movie eventually provides something akin to answers, that move is very cursory and unlikely to satisfy anyone who needs a Reason behind Events.
Anyway, I guess it’s like I said back at the beginning. This is well-trodden ground, and it has nothing much new to offer. But what it offers is certainly entertaining and still manages to pull in enough disparate elements to not feel copied, unlike the bad days of the ’80s that nearly killed the genre in the first place. Although I could wish someone had handed the reporter chick a paper bag at some point, or possibly a calming slap. ‘Cause there are a number of minutes of hyperventilating that are impossible to listen to, regardless of how realistic the action might be. I’m not sure what that number is, and it might vary from person to person. But it is at least two minutes shorter than the number portrayed by this otherwise delightful little film.
 Which, okay, sounds unimpressive, but then again movies in general haven’t been around all that long, so calling this the Silver Age of horror to the Golden Age of the ’70s really isn’t such faint praise as it might look at first glance.
 Who you hopefully know as Deb Morgan from Dexter.