There are very few horror flicks that leave me speechless, jaw dropped, and staring at a black TV screen long after the credits have finished. This is one of them.
Terrifying and brutally realistic, this Spanish film, co-written and directed by Jaume Balagueró and Paco Plaza, will stay with you for days afterwards… and will probably force you to watch it again.
The title of the film, taken from the “record” button on a video camera, is appropriate as we follow the events unfolding on a late night TV show reporter, Ángela Vidal, through the lens of her cameraman and friend, Pablo. While recording a real-time segment for a show entitled, While You’re Asleep, Ángela and Pablo follow a team of Barcelona firefighters on their night shift, not realising that the adventure they are seeking ends up being far more than what they asked for.
After receiving a distress call from an old lady at an apartment building, Ángela and Pablo excitedly follow the firefighters to answer the call, while Ángela playfully tries on the firefighters’ hats and flirts with the men; an uneasy foreshadowing that this playfulness will quickly turn to terror when they learn what awaits them at the apartment. When they arrive, Pablo follows the firefighters to the old woman’s flat to capture the incident on camera, but when the frightened old woman suddenly turns ferociously violent and bites one of the firefighters, you know that something is definitely not right. This is the beginning of a delightful, modern-day spin on the zombie genre, as we discover that there is a virus making its way through the residents of the building that is spread by a bite from the infected, causing them to become feverish, unpredictably forceful and very difficult to contain. The authorities in Barcelona attempt to do just that, sealing off all entrances to the building, leaving Ángela and Pablo trapped inside to fend for themselves.
While the firefighters, police officers and frightened residents of the building try to make sense of what is happening, a haunting, terrifying scream is heard repeatedly from the penthouse apartment of the building. This disturbing, inhuman cry will send chills throughout your body, and it isn’t until Ángela and Pablo find themselves rushing to the penthouse for cover after their peers succumb one by one to the infection that you discover the horror that has been tucked away in that lair, sealed off from the rest of the world. A chilling discovery that comes at a great cost to our hero and heroine, and will most certainly keep you up at night. I guarantee it.
The filming of this movie is genius. Portrayed mostly through Pablo’s hand held camera in a way that is reminiscent of the Blair Witch Project, this film seems terrifyingly real, so much so that the viewer feels like they are right there and can relate to what the characters are going through. The sense of panic this realism creates remains with you throughout the film and culminates when the pair make it to the dreaded penthouse. The actors are excellent, portraying characters that you actually care about, making it difficult to endure when they drop off one by one, infected by the virus and doomed to walk the halls of the apartment building as a hollow, empty soul – until, of course, the authorities in Barcelona figure out what to do with this condemned building, which stands as a graveyard for the living dead.
My only regret about this fantastic film is that I can’t experience it again for the first time.
Review by Julia Sakas
Connect with Julia: @MorningKaya