[Rec] 2 is a Spanish zombie horror film that was released in 2009 and was directed and written by Jaume Balagueró and Paco Plaza, who were responsible for the original [Rec] film that was released in 2007 to pretty much universal acclaim.
The original [Rec] movie was a surprise international hit that used a first-person ‘found footage’ approach to show a trauma taking place in a sealed-off Spanish apartment block where the inhabitants are turning into zombies. The claustrophobic setting and the fact that viewers watch the action unfold in real-time from a shaky first-person viewpoint made the movie a nerve-shredding experience which was embraced by horror fans the world over.
There are very few horror franchises that seem to spring from genuine necessity around these days. Most sequels and franchises are usually born from a ‘higher-than-expected‘ box office revenue result, rather than an actual need to continue the story that the first film started, and that can be somewhat disheartening for a fan of the genre.
The [Rec] series successfully bucked this trend (at least for the first couple of films) – it is true that the first [Rec] film was an unexpected box-office success, but by the end of the film it still felt that there was far more to the story to discover. With the majority of the first film taking place inside one claustrophobic building, we never really got to see what was going on elsewhere – was the rest of the city experiencing the same issues, was this an isolated incident, will it spread etc..? So when Spanish filmmakers Juame Balaguero and Paco Plaza announced the follow-up, [Rec] 2, horror fans salivated with expectation. And for the most part, their expectations were met and [Rec] 2 delivered what they wanted in spades.
There’s plenty about this film that deserves recommending. The first is that it manages to perfectly capture the claustrophobic and erratic, disturbing nature of the first film while still managing to shed a little more light on the situation causing the horrific events, and not just repeat themselves word-for-word or scene-for-scene.
[Rec] 2 starts immediately after the events of the first film, and the story follows an official from the Ministry of Health and his team as they enter the quarantined apartment block. Inside, they find chaos as a priest attempts to acquire the blood of a seemingly possessed girl while groups of those who she’s infected swarm the rest of the building. It kicks straight off into a stark, bleak, and violent tone that lasts the whole length of the movie, as the team attempt to figure out exactly what’s going on. The pacing is unpredictable, which heightens tension as viewers find themselves waiting for an explosion of violence at every turn in a corridor, in every dark corner, or behind every creaking apartment door that is opened.
The film places a lot more emphasis on the demonic possession element of the story than the predecessor, and your mileage for that sort of plot point may vary. For example, the demonic angle definitely pulls the film slightly away from the modern, urban zombie roots that the original had and places it in a more Gothic-horror genre. It also has the effect of reducing the danger somewhat as it indicates to viewers that this probably an isolated incident and it is probably very unlikely that this issue will spread across the city.
But on the whole it doesn’t weaken the film too much – keeping the outbreak locked in one place, with a small group of people, as opposed to having it sprawl all over the globe in a clumsy montage sequences, forces you to rethink the zombie genre in this case. Adding demonic possession here just gives the directors a few more horror elements to play with, and actually adds different elements to the scare-factor of [Rec] 2.
The camera angles and ‘Go-Pro’ first-person filming style is mostly retained for [Rec] 2, but a slightly larger cast (a squad of soldiers, and later a bunch of teens that manage to sneak in) present challenges which are ultimately resolved by all protagonists having a camera on them – the SWAT team have modern head-cams and the action and viewpoints flip between each soldier (not unlike in Aliens (1986) when the team of marines are exploring the LV-426 colony and the action jumps from head-cam to head-cam with the marines name in the top corner of the screen), and the teens helpfully bring a camera of their own in for their first-person viewpoints. This bit does feel a bit ‘forced’, but the distinction between the SWAT teams HD quality military head-cams, and the teens grainy hand-held bargain video-camera at least makes it more believable, and keeps the footage feeling fresh and raw.
In some ways [Rec] 2 feels like 2 movies – the first 45 minutes or so are mostly taken up with the SWAT team investigating the building, and then the film almost seems to restart as the action follows the group of aforementioned teens that sneak in to the building via the sewers and soon become trapped, forcing their way deeper into the building to find an alternative route out. The two story-lines soon overlap in places and despite being a relatively short film (85 minutes) the film-makers do a decent enough job to provide enough reason for them to be there before hurling them straight into the action.
But the most impressive part of this film is it’s energy. There’s something jumpy, unpleasant, almost a little distorted about the way the story ramps up the stakes in innovative ways. It doesn’t rely on tropes to get it’s point across; no, it makes constant twists and turns to throw the audience of it’s scent, and keeps you guessing right up until the last moment. Some closure is given, but it would take the most short-sighted of viewers not to see the door left open for the sequel (which incidentally, was released in 2012 as REC] 3: Génesis).
The action is slick and tense, and the zombies are well constructed and remain an unpredictable threat throughout the entire movie as you never really know ho many of these thingts are stalkimng the hallways and rooms of the building. With brutally effect violence and gore, [Rec] 2 marks itself out as connected to but ultimately different from the first movie.
I rarely genuinely recommend sequels, unless the person was insanely enthusiastic about the original movie, but [Rec] 2 is absolutely worth seeing if you’re a fan of the genre at all. Smart, sharp and shocking, it’ll hang around in the back of your nightmares for a while – without doubt one of the best horror movies from 2009.
Watch the trailer for [Rec] 2:
|Watch [Rec] 2 at iTunes|
|Get [Rec] 2 at Amazon|
Written by: Louise MacGregor