Jaume Balaguaro and Paco Plaza continue their “handheld” horror series, with the sequel to 2007’s highly successful [REC]. It was so well received that it was deemed necessary for those too idle to read subtitles deserved a westernised remake, with American actors instead of Spanish. Although they are almost identical movies, [REC] is still undoubtedly the better picture. [REC] 2 takes place immediately after the end of the first, which is excellent in keeping the flow of events believable.
[REC] follows a news reporter who is covering a report on the local fire crew around for the night. They receive a call from an old woman who appears to be trapped in an apartment block down town and, along with the cameraman, she goes along. When they arrive at the building, they find the other residents are gathered in the lobby, with screams coming from upstairs. The woman who made the call turns out to be “infected”, and acts extremely aggressively, biting one of the policemen present. He then gets infected, the building gets “locked down” for quarantine, and from then on unoriginality creeps in.
[REC] 2 changes from the news crew to the 4-man SWAT team sent in to control the situation. Before entering the building, they are met by a Health Inspector, who aids them on their task. The camera work is achieved by looking through the helmet cams of each SWAT officer, which alternates throughout the film. The most reasonable narrative arc for this sequel would be uncover what these things are; and that’s exactly what it does. Problem is, the explanation was never going to please everyone: I for one wasn’t impressed.
What made the first one so intriguing was the air of mystery to these creatures. The frantic camera work was, at times, nauseating but incredibly realistic. Instead of full on viewing the people, we only caught glimpses of them. Here, because the camera is attached to their heads, it’s much more clear as to what we are seeing; some scenes even give the effect that the camera has jammed whilst the “zombies” are snarling right in front of it. I got the impression that many of the cliché’s used in handheld movies were used here (for example, when the camera is “dropped” there will always be someone who dies and drops down right in front of it, eyes looking right at the viewer).
The 4 SWAT characters are almost indistinguishable from each other, but it’s not really a problem because they are so 2 dimensional, crumpled paper has more depth to it. The “Health Inspector” turns out to be more than just that, and actually does plays the character well. His revelation of true identity is just one of the many religious subtexts, and the movie suffers for them. There are a few flashes of brilliance and dread; the recovery of infected blood from a vent is incredibly atmospheric. But it quickly sinks back into the well trodden path of cheap shocks and buckets of blood. The final 20 minutes are breathless action pieces, but makes everything you’ve already seen in the first 2 movies a little pointless. It turns from “realistic” reasoning to supernatural nonsense, but ironically it is the most entertaining when it’s not taking itself too seriously.