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.
4 1/2 out of 5
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