REC 2 (2009)
Starring Manuela Velasco, Leticia Dolera, Ferran Terraza, Javier Botet
Directed by Jaume Balagueró and Paco Plaza
Jaume Balagueró and Paco Plaza’s follow-up to their 2007 sensation [REC] (remade in America as Quarantine), [REC] 2, picks up the story just 15 minutes after the events of the first film. An apartment building has been sealed off (ostensibly by the Department of Health) to contain a viral outbreak inside. One that seems to be turning the occupants into psychotic demons.
The first film made innovative use of first-person faux-documentary camerawork, following a TV presenter into the building as she investigates, and the sequel continues this style to great effect. We ride along looking through the helmet cameras of a four-man S.W.A.T. team tasked with escorting a senior “health” official into the building to investigate the outbreak. The outbreak of terrifying, duct-crawling hairless screeching child zombies.
It’s scary and very clever, effective and frightening for reasons that go beyond the filmmakers' very real skill with the camera and the timing of scares, screams and busted-down doors. A lot of its effectiveness is down to the very real atmosphere of dread that they are able to create both with solid, smart set design and to their choice to inject a little bit of magic, a little supernatural spookiness, a little eldritch-ness back into the zombie genre. Weirdly, speaking in broad terms, modern horror filmmakers have tried to somehow legitimize or make explicable both the zombie and the vampire as sufferers of some kind of virus or infection that could theoretically be cured. While, okay, this lets them use the monsters as interesting metaphors for a whole bunch of neat stuff, it also steals from them their other-worldliness, their spookiness, their ability to act as representatives of a world incomprehensibly beyond our own. They’re not supernatural and unknowable; they’ve just got rabies. Or the “rage virus”.
[REC] 2 returns, thankfully, a little bit of that spooky incomprehensibility, and as a result it’s not just scary, it’s frightening. It lets us be frightened not just by attack and death, but of the unknown, the void from which its villain reaches out to us. That small change is enough to elevate the film up past the sum of its few flaws – its shallow or non-existent characterization of its S.W.A.T. protagonists, its grating, too-highly-pitched running/shouting match first act – to become, like Sean Byrne’s The Loved Ones that we saw earlier this week, something that is both charming and bloody, heartwarmingly cinematic and really, really scary and gross.
4 out of 5
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