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[REC] 2 (DVD)



Rec 2 DVDStarring Jonathan Mellor, Oscar Zafra, Pablo Rosso

Directed by Jaume Balagueró and Paco Plaza

Distributed by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Sequel territory is a daunting traverse. How many genre films have spawned follow-ups that have had legitimate stories to tell? It’s partly a rhetorical question as one can find exceptions to any rule when you look hard enough, but even the best genre follow-ups feel like cash-ins more often than not.

That’s the case at the outset of [REC] 2, a follow-up to the cinéma vérité exercise from 2007. Was there any need to venture back into the doomed apartment building that looked a lost cause in the climactic moments of the Jaume Balagueró and Paco Plaza original? Apparently the international success of [REC] made the writer/director duo return to familiar ground to see what else they could do with this zombie invasion-cum-possession epidemic. And while the freshness that made the first outing such a surprising and scary experience has greatly diminished this time around, they’ve found quite a few ways to make their sequel work.

Picking up after the closing seconds of [REC], a S.W.A.T. team is ordered to lead a mysterious holy man into the apartment building to investigate the circumstances surrounding the outbreak. Most impressive is how well this complements the original in terms of quality, ensuring that fans could run the two films back-to-back without sacrificing quality from the first to the second (sorry Halloween fans, but queuing Halloween II after the original results in one long, clumsy and lopsided movie). Only trouble is this time out we’re expecting people to meet gruesome fates while zombies fling themselves from every lurking shadow. It’s not yet ‘old hat,’ but audiences are getting hip to the tricks Balagueró and Plaza have cooked up.

They circumvent it masterfully, however, realizing that every quotient needs to be ‘upped’ for a second go ‘round. As a result there’s more carnage, more cameras, more characters and some of the most stellar setpieces the genre has produced in recent memory. And it works even better because the filmmakers are clearly relishing the story they’re telling. They’re having fun here: from the first-person shooter camera angle that momentarily makes this a better adaptation of the Doom video game than that lousy movie with The Rock to the shifts in audience perspective that keep us on our toes. People die faster than a snap of the fingers, and the storyline unfolds in some genuinely interesting ways.

Ultimately, that’s why [REC] 2 works so well – because it remains an interesting and engrossing experience. Balagueró and Plaza don’t try to replicate the surprises of the original, instead putting a bit more attention on the reason behind the chaos. It’s handled in a way that intrigues without completely spoiling the mystique of this mass-possession. The evil demon behind the scenes is given a bit more screen time here while the third act is ripe with surprises that won’t even be hinted at in this review. It goes without saying that the less one knows about [REC] 2, the better.

Balagueró and Plaza are moving on with two more entries in this series. How successful they were at crafting a sequel that somehow feels fresh despite utilizing the same locale as the original is a testament to their abilities. Rumor has it there are even an array of clues spread throughout the first two installments that hint at the direction of the third story ([REC] 3: Genesis). This one is much more than a cash-in. Despite the fact that we’ve come to know what to expect when dealing with these cinematic demons, there remains plenty of ingenuity in this sequel to warrant a viewing. Even if nobody could be bothered to wear a damn pair of gloves at any point throughout the proceedings.

Much like their treatment of the first film, Sony took their sweet time in bringing [REC] 2 to home video. A strange decision considering they had no big screen remake to hide it from this time around. And while the lack of a Blu-ray is a real shame in this instance, Sony’s DVD gets the job done. Color balance is strong throughout, and black levels hold up remarkably well – an impressive feat considering the ‘authentic’ filming conditions. Detail is quite strong for standard definition, and this looked absolutely terrific upscaled on a 60” display. High-def snobs will undoubtedly bemoan the SD-only offering here, but this is a stellar presentation – all things considered.

And on the audio front, things are even better. This 5.1 lossy track packs a punch with an immersive surround mix. Ambient sounds are aggressive and well-separated in the rear channels. Dialogue is loud and clear – almost entirely confined to the center channels. Not much to say about this mix, except that it’s loud and fun. A perfect way to experience the film!

Getting into the supplements, there’s a pleasant handful here. Seven minutes of deleted scenes are relegated to the teenage characters, proving it was wise to chop their time down as much as possible. The almost hour long behind-the-scenes is easily the best feature on the disc, offering fascinating insight into the way in which some of the most challenging moments of the film were shot. Lots of authentic footage, mixed with great discussion from the cast and crew, makes this a must see. The set visit runs eight minutes and features a look at the production design while the ten-minute press conference featurette looks at the main crew when they spoke about the film at Stiges. Lastly, eight minutes of the crew touring their film on the festival circuit shows the downside of endlessly promoting your work.

[REC] 2 is a near-perfect sequel to a perfect original. A movie that refuses to defame the legacy of one of the genre’s greatest modern efforts. Sony’s DVD offers admittedly strong PQ/AQ while giving fans a solid assortment of extra materials to keep them busy for an additional 90 minutes after the film’s end. Balagueró and Plaza’s clever take on the possession sub-genre is just about the most exciting film to hit the States this year. It comes highly recommended.

Special Features

  • Deleted and Extended Scenes
  • Behind-the-Scenes documentary
  • A Walkthrough of the Set featurette
  • Stiges Film Festival Press Conference featurette

  • On Tour featurette


    4 1/2 out of 5

    Special Features

    3 out of 5

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    Before We Vanish Review – A Quirky and Original Take on Alien Invasions



    Starring Masami Nagasawa, Ryûhei Matsuda, Hiroki Hasegawa

    Written by Kiyoshi Kurosawa

    Directed by Kiyoshi Kurosawa

    During the J-horror rampage of the late 90’s and early 2000’s, Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s Kairo (aka Pulse). A dark, depressing, and morose tale of ghosts that use the internet to spread across the world, the film’s almost suffocatingly gloomy atmosphere pervaded across every frame of the film. Because of my love of this film, I was eager to see the director’s upcoming movie Sanpo Suru Shinryakusha (aka Before We Vanish), which follows three aliens who recently arrived on Earth and are preparing to bring about an alien invasion that will wipe humanity from the face of the planet. Imagine my surprise when the film turned out to be barely a horror title but was instead a quirky and surreal dramedy that tugged at my heartstrings.

    Admittedly, I was thrown completely for a loop as the film begins with a scene that feels perfectly at home in a horror film. Akira (Tsunematsu), a teenage girl, goes home and we enter moments later to blood splashed on the walls and floor and bodies strewn about. However, the disturbing visuals are spun around as the young girl walks down a highway, her clothes and face streaked with blood, Yusuke Hayashi’s music taking on a lighthearted, almost jaunty attitude. From there, we learn of the other two aliens (yes, she’s an alien and it’s not a secret or a twist, so no spoilers there): Amano (Takasugi), who is a young man that convinces a sleazy reporter, Sakurai (Hasegawa), of his true form and tasks Sakurai with being his guide, and Shinji (Matsuda), the estranged husband of Narumi (Nagasawa).

    What sets these aliens, and their mission, apart from other invasion thrillers is their means of gathering information. They’re not interested in meeting leaders nor do they capture people for nefarious experimentations. Rather, they steal “concepts” from the minds of people, such as “family”, “possession”, or “pest”. Once these concepts are taken, the victim no longer has that value in their mind, freed from its constraints.

    While this may seem like a form of brainwashing, Kurosawa instead plays with the idea that maybe knowing too much is what holds us back from true happiness. A man obsessed with staking claim to his family home learns to see the world outside of its walls when “possession” is no longer a part of his life. A touchy boss enters a state of child-like glee after “work” has been taken. That being said, there are other victims who are left as little more than husks.

    Overly long at 130 minutes, the film does take its time showing the differences between the aliens and their individual behaviors. Amano and Akira are casually ruthless, willing to do whatever it takes to send a beacon to begin the alien invasion, no matter how many must die along the way, while Shinji is the curious and almost open-minded one, whose personal journey finds him at one point asking a priest to envision and describe “love”, a concept that is so individualistic and personal that it can’t be taken, much less fathomed, by this alien being. While many of these scenes are necessary, they could have easily been edited down to shave 10-15 minutes, making the film flow a bit more smoothly.

    While the film begins on a dark note, there is a scene in the third act that is so pure and moving that tears immediately filled my eyes and I choked up a little. It’s a moment of both sacrifice and understanding, one that brings a recurring thread in the story full circle.

    With every passing minute, Before We Vanish makes it clear that it’s much more horror-adjacent than horror. An alien invasion thriller with ultimate stakes, it will certainly have appeal to genre fans. That being said, those who go in expecting action, violence, and terror will certainly be disappointed. But those whose mind is a bit more open to a wider range of possibilities will find a delightful story that attempts to find out what it means to be human, even if we have to learn the lesson from an alien.

    • Before We Vanish


    Before We Vanish is a beautiful, wonderful tale that explores what it means to be human when faced with the threat of extinction.

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    Delirium Review – Bros, Cameras And A Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin On



    Starring Mike C. Manning, Griffin Freeman, Ryan Pinkston

    Directed by Johnny Martin

    When will these testosterone-overloaded frat bros with cameras ever learn that pissing off the evil souls of the departed all in the name of amusement won’t get you anywhere but wrecked? Same goes for filmmakers: when will they learn that found-footage exploits set in a house of pure sadism are something of a wrung-out affectation? Oh well, as long as people keep renting them, they’ll continue to get manufactured…which might or might not be to the benefit of the horror film-watching populous.

    Delirium opens with a poor lad, strapped with a GoPro, running for his life through a labyrinth of haunted territory, praying for an escape…and it’s a foregone conclusion as to what happens to this trespassing individual. We then relocate our focus towards a collection of (ahem), “gentlemen” self-titled as The Hell Gang, and their escapades are about as profound as their grasp on the English language and its verbiage. The words “dude”, creepy”, and the term “what the fuck” are thrown about so much in this movie it’ll make your head spin to the point of regurgitation. Anyway, their interest in the home of the Brandt clan is more piqued now than ever, especially considering one of their own has gone missing, and they’ve apparently got the gonads to load up the cameras, and traverse the property after-hours, and against the warnings of the local law-enforcement, who surprisingly are just inadequate enough to ignore a dangerous situation. The cursed family and the residence has quite the illustrious and bleak history, and it’s ripe for these pseudo-snoopers to poke around in.

    Usually I’m curb-stomping these first person POV movies until there’s nothing left but a mash of blood, snot and hair left on the cement, but Martin’s direction takes the “footage” a little bit outside of the box, with steadier shots (sometimes) and a bit more focus on the characters as they go about their business. Also, there are a few genuinely spooky scenes to speak of involving the possession of bodies, but there really isn’t much more to crow about, as the plot’s basically a retread of many films before it, and with this collection of borderline-douches manning the recording equipment, it’s a sad state of affairs we’re in that something such as this has crept its way towards us all again. I’m always down for jumping into a cold grave, especially when there could be a sweet prize to be dug up in all that dirt, but Delirium was one of those movies that never let you find your footing, even after you’ve clawed your way through all of the funereal sediment – take a hard pass on this one.


    • Film


    Got about a half-dozen bros with cameras and a wanton will to get slaughtered on camera, all the while repetitively uttering the same phrases all damn day long? Then my friends, you’ve got yourself a horror movie!

    User Rating 0 (0 votes)
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    Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters Review – A Timid Step Towards a Frightening Possibility



    Starring Mamoru Miyano, Takahiro Sakurai, Kana Hanazawa, Yuki Kaji, Tomokazu Sugita

    Directed by Kobun Shizuno and Hiroyuki Seshita

    The Godzilla series is the longest-running franchise in cinema history. With over 30 films over a 60+ year career, the famous kaiju has appeared in video games, comic books, TV shows, and more, cementing its place as one of the most recognizable cultural icons in the past 100 years. With Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters, the titular beast makes its foray into the world of anime in this first film in a proposed trilogy. While there are moments that are genuinely thrilling, the film unfortunately fails to capture the imagination and wonder that is at its fingertips.

    The story is quite simple: Earth is under attack by swarms of various kaiju who are wreaking havoc across the planet. Entire cities are being destroyed when Godzilla appears to vanquish humanity’s foes. Unfortunately, the King of the Monsters isn’t really there to help humans and its rampage continues until a race of alien beings arrive at Earth asking for a place to stay in exchange for defeating Godzilla. When they are unable to do that, the remaining humans board a giant spaceship to venture off into space in search of a new home only to come back some 20 years later, nearly 20,000 years later by Earth time (think Interstellar logic), to search for resources and, possibly, a planet that will welcome them once again. However, Godzilla is still around and isn’t keen on sharing.

    The main character of the film is Haruo Sakaki, a young man who begins the film by nearly following through on a suicide bomber terrorist act that is meant to call attention to humanity’s loss of vision and failure to fulfill their mission of finding a suitable home for the remaining survivors. Even though he is accosted and jailed for this act, he is eventually freed when people realize that his lifelong passion of killing Godzilla is the foundation for research he’s done in finding a way to take down the creature…a plan that just might work. The other characters are so forgettable that I forgot their names during the film.

    From there, the film essentially pivots into following a massive team of volunteers who land on Earth’s surface to lay a trap for Godzilla in order to destroy it. Since this is Earth 20,000 years after they left, the flora and fauna have evolved and changed so radically that the team have no idea what to expect or how to react, so caution is a must.

    The problem with this is that while the characters have to be cautious, the film doesn’t nor should it. The movie has the chance to explore the wealth of imaginative opportunities at its fingertips and yet does almost everything it can to avoid doing just that. The color scheme is flat and uninteresting. The character movements lack smoothness and the action sequences fall victim to shaky cam syndrome. There are a few mentions of some of the changes that have taken place on the planet, such as razor sharp plants, but they’re so incidental or offhand that it feels like no one making the film has any interest in seeing anything other than man against beast.

    Speaking of this dynamic, the action sequences are quite entertaining but also feel somewhat reserved. Godzilla barely moves and much of the destruction levied against the humans is seen from a distance, apart from an attack on a military outpost by dragon-like creatures. For nearly the entire film, I found myself thinking, “I’m okay with this but that’s about it.

    The brightest moment in the film are the last few minutes and I won’t spoil what happens. Suffice it to say that it definitely has me interested in the second and third films but I really hope that this new world will be explored further in those entries. Otherwise, we’ve got a fascinating foundation that will be squandered.

    • Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters


    Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters is a bland entry in a trilogy that has great potential. For a first course, there’s a distinct lack of flavor or complexity. The final minutes are the only saving grace and I hope that the second and third films make use of that grand wonder.

    User Rating 5 (1 vote)
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