Let's suppose for a moment that Quarantine isn't already derivative by being a remake of the reputedly better Spanish film Rec. Even if it weren't, this film still seems to be borrowing heavily from other, better current horror films, namely, from 28 Days Later for the idea of zombies as infected, angry people, and from countless other films these days for the idea of cinema verité. Even heavy borrowing in and of itself isn't so bad, if the movie brings something further to the screen. Unfortunately, what it brought in this case were confusion and disbelief.
There are two things that can make or break cinema verité: (1) Can you actually bring yourself to believe that the obsessed person filming all this wouldn't just drop the camera and run at some point? (2) Can you actually tell what's going on?
The camera holder in this case is Scott (Steve Harris). Scott and field reporter Angela (Jennifer Carpenter) are filming a fireman crew answering a 911 call about a sick woman. When they get there, they find that the police are already there. As they investigate, the building is suddenly sealed, trapping the firemen, police, news crew, and residents all inside. When it turns out that the sick woman, and possibly others, have some condition that makes them foam at the mouth and attack people, those trapped in the building have to come up with a plan to survive.
Scott's believeability and camera work at first are totally fine. Even when the building is sealed, we can easily believe that Scott is visualizing getting out of the situation with some primo footage. But as the situation gets more dire, Scott's footage gets more jerky and erratic, until it seems that nothing is in view for more than a second. The only way you know that the plot is progressing is that in those split seconds, you see someone being bitten. I had a hard time telling who it was, so after a while, I stopped really caring.
When power is cut to the building, it seems that at some point while being chased up and down stairs in the dark by zombies, Scott would think, Hey, you know, I've probably got enough footage for a prime-time special. Maybe I should actually watch where I'm going. I know that if one were to be realistic about who would actually keep filming in a given situation, none of these movies would pass the test. Some suspension of disbelief will always be required. But Quarantine pushes my disbelief higher than it wants to go.
In addition to the camera work problem, I found a lot of the writing to be contrived. Some conflicts seem to arise between characters simply for the sake of creating tension, and some events occur at ridiculously opportune moments. Also, the emergency personnel's methods of dealing with this crisis seem questionable to me. Not the people that seal the building; that I get. But there are actions taken by those inside that serve only to make the situation worse, which of course is what the movie requires.