Sunday, July 11, 2010

Rec 2 (2009) review

REC 2 (2009)

Jonathan Mellor (Dr. Owen), Manuela Velasco (Angela Vidal), Oscar Zafra (Jefe), Ariel Casas (Larra), Alejandro Casaseca (Martos)

Directed by Jaume Balaguero & Paco Plaza

The Short Version: Action oriented sequel treads very similar ground from the first film, but makes some choice alterations to what little was established prior. Regardless of 'the same old thing', there's some grand scares, surprises and nicely done suspenseful moments. A worthy second chapter in this increasingly interesting series.

A SWAT team and a doctor enter the Barcelona apartment complex to assess the situation inside. Once they've entered the hellish building, they uncover shocking secrets and the truth behind the deadly contagion that has turned the occupants into ravenous zombie like creatures.

After hearing a rave review of the first REC (2007) from a friend, I immediately picked up the Spanish DVD in anticipation of the proposed hair raising and goose bump inducing qualities found therein. Needless to say, it turned out to be the scariest movie I'd seen in a long, long time. The ending was truly terrifying and stunningly shot capturing the maximum amount of terror. An inferior American remake titled QUARANTINE, was quickly put into production and was virtually a shot for shot remake of the original Spanish shocker. Now, the original films deadly duo, Balaguero and Plaza return for the second round in this furiously fast, roller coaster of a sequel.

One thing that will become immediately obvious to those watching is the similarity to ALIENS (1986) what with the use of the armed SWAT team that enters the ominous apartment complex. They all have their own helmet mounted cameras and occasionally, the view switches to a picture in picture image. In a nice move that brought HALLOWEEN 2 (1981) to mind, the film picks up minutes after the first film has ended. It only takes about ten minutes before both the unsuspecting soldiers and the audience are suddenly thrown into the action.

Whereas the first film ended with that truly terrifying finale in the upstairs penthouse, the sequel takes our protagonists there right from the start. Even though a high quotient of the suspense has been drained due to the almost identical set up from the first time around, you can't help but wonder when, or if something will pop up. It's here in the penthouse that the first and most radical script alteration is seen. Depending on how you felt about the nature of the horror elements in the first film will play a major role in how you feel about what the filmmakers do with it in the second one.

Personally, I had no problem with it. Even after reading about the turn of events regarding the contagion, it was still a bit of a surprise, but didn't detract from my enjoyment. Still, people shouldn't complain too much considering the ending of REC (2007) hints at the plot device this film runs with. Furthermore, I couldn't help but be reminded of Lamberto Bava's DEMONS (1985) as REC 2 shares some similarities with that Italian favorite as well. Really, though, some kind of change had to be made to keep the film from being a note for note clone of the previous picture. There's also another shocking surprise that comes out of nowhere around the hour mark.

There are more than a few terrifyingly harrowing sequences found in REC 2. They include a brief scene inside an air vent, an irrefutably intense scene where Larra finds himself separated from the group with the infected monsters all around him and the taut, fright inducing finale when the last survivors confront Tristana Medeiros, the ghoulish monster seen during the conclusion of the first picture. This last segment also introduces a high level of the supernatural that adds even more to the creepy conclusion.

While I wouldn't say REC 2 is a better movie than the first film, it's at least on par with it. It loses a modicum of suspense because we're already familiar with the scenario and are somewhat prepared for the multitude of shocks. The new script additions aid in making sure the audience will become squirmy in their seats on at least a few occasions. The directors create some unsettling moments by having the monsters remain stationary momentarily before they attack, or appear out of nowhere, hidden in shadow at the end of a hallway.

Where the film trips up is there is virtually no characterization. Owen and Larra are about the only two that get any semblance of a personality. For a film like this where action and horror are the main focal points, the audience is already aware of what's going on, so there really is no need for a large amount of exposition in the first place. At the 40 minute mark, the film slows down momentarily (like 10 minutes) when we are introduced to a group of young interlopers who serve little purpose aside from becoming creature fodder. However, the fate of a couple of these characters is unknown after two of them are locked up inside a room. I presume they will feature in the third film, already being prepared.

At just 79 minutes (84 counting the end credits, it's a few minutes longer than the first movie), fat is one thing this film has very little of. The Spanish directors have fashioned that rare sequel that is equally enjoyable on its own terms and brings some new elements to the table to maintain viewer interest. Some may be disappointed, but I was pleasantly surprised and came away very much entertained by this venture and anxiously await the next installment. The ending of REC 2 hints at something far bigger than what we've seen so far. A really good, frequently scary, tight little horror movie that expands on the mythology started by the ingenious, but superior original.

This review is representative of the Musictronic Entertainment region 0 DVD. It contains Spanish language with optional English and Japanese subtitles.
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