[REC]2

Look it up on Google or ask your kids about Ceiling Cat.

 

Like you, I love horror films.  I also love cartoons.  The old Warner Bros and Merry Melodies cartoons are some of the best.  I loved the unbelievable tropes: A talking rabbit pulling dangerous lit explosives from his “pocket,” and  handing them off to gullible antagonists dressed in archaic hunting garb, a coyote with an apparently large line of credit who mail orders all manner of devices in a fruitless effort to eat one scrawny bird.

As a kid, cartoon fun was the order of the day and a large suspension of disbelief was all that was required to join in. One of my favorite gags was when Bugs Bunny painted the floor of a room, backing up as he worked, until he found himself painted into a corner.  Unable to leave the room by crossing the floor he simply painted a picture of a door on the wall, then opened it and stepped through, painting the last bit of floor before closing the door.

Jaume Balagueró and Luis Berdejo, in writing the screenplay for [REC] painted themselves into a corner. [REC] was big success.  “How can we,” Balagueró must of thought to himself,”make a sequel to a movie about a building that has been sealed-off, from which nobody can escape?  Let’s simply paint a door on the wall and send in some more roadrunners and coyotes!”

 

[REC] 2, in a nutshell, picks up right where the first one left off.  The Spanish Ministry of Health and the police have quarantined an apartment building where a nasty and highly communicable disease similar to rabies has broken out.  The authorities have lost contact with those inside.  A paramilitary squad is sent in to escort an official from the Ministry of Health.  Their mission is to gather evidence and record the investigation.

[REC] was more or less a zombie movie and it took no time to descend into zombie action. The issues in [REC] are zombie movie issues. Who is infected?  Who is going to turn next?  How are we going to get out here alive?  It’s a survival story focusing on human relationships set against an apocalyptic backdrop.  [REC] 2 at the outset is more of the same, but by adding in a paramilitary unit and a mysterious Ministry of Health Official (Jonathan Mellor), it ups the ante.  You might be thinking [REC] 2 is essentially SWAT vs. Zombies.  At the start of the film, it sure seems as if it wants to go that way, then it takes a hard turn down a different path. Writers Jaume Balagueró and Manu Díez take the second part of their zombie story in a novel direction, which is both fresh and at the same time harkens back to pre-Romero zombie fare.

As in the first movie, [REC] 2 is a found footage film, but instead of having only the point of view of one camera, this time we get several.  We not only see from the point of view of the camera man, but also from the soldier’s helmet cameras.  Due to some very clever editing, we are able to seamlessly switch from the main camera to any one of the helmet cameras at various times as the story required.  It reminded me of playing a video game.  While the switching of perspective helped keep the movie going, it also undermined the feeling of creepy disorientation from having only one point of view that I had in [REC].

On a side note: There was some fanboy debate with [REC] as to whether or not it was a real zombie movie. [REC] 2 only muddies the waters further.  Are they infected?  Are they zombies?  Are they . . . well, you’ll have to see the movie, because I’m not going into Spoilerland.  I will say that the direction taken in [REC] 2 should provoke flame wars for people who like to argue over that sort thing.  It’ll be good times ahead for the zomgeeks.  Okay, let’s get back to business.

The first thing people always want to know about any sequel is how it stacks up to the original.  Sometimes this kind of comparison can reasonably be made, in some cases, and other times it doesn’t work.  For example, Blade is a totally inferior when compared to the relative awesomeness of Blade II.  Yes, I know, the IMDB ratings say otherwise.  The IMDB ratings also prefer Ratatouille to the infinitely better The Princess Bride.  So they can byte me.  In other instances, sequels are not comparable at all.  The Night of the Living Dead is a very different movie from Dawn of the Dead.  Or if you want to get a little more obscure, you can looks at  House and House II.   House was more or less a straight up horror film while its sequel was played for laughs.  If you’ve never heard of them, have a look on IMBD or Netflix.

I digress.  As to how [REC] 2 stacks up to the original, they are in many ways very different movies.  Though the setting hasn’t changed, the people in the mix are very different from the original and the menace they face is not quite the same.  If forced to choose between the two, I’d give [REC] a slight edge over [Rec]2 for two reasons: One, I found Manuela Velasco very engaging as Ángela Vidal, the television reporter from the first film.  Yes, Manuela Velasco is also in [REC] 2, but she isn’t on camera anywhere near as much and I didn’t find any of the other principle characters in  [REC] 2 as compelling. Two, [REC] was a surprise.  I didn’t have any idea of what to expect other than a zombie movie.  [REC] 2 was more of a known quantity, though the plot twists somewhat make up for it.

Like its predecessor, [REC] 2 still avoids the twin pitfalls of bad acting and poor productions values that often plague small and independent films.  While there are no standout performances, there are no bad ones either.   To be fair to the actors, [Rec] 2 isn’t structured in a way that is conducive to showing multi-dimensional nuanced performances.  If this wasn’t a found footage horror film, that might be a problem.   We really don’t need to get into the characters heads too much.  We’re already there with them — in the building.

The zombies in [REC] 2 are every bit as wonderfully gruesome as in the first film.  Highlights include: a mummified body, bloody projectile vomit (take that, pea soup!), walking corpses, and a rather nifty trick involving a zombie and a roman candle.  Aiding the visual effects, the film’s sound is slick, and artfully underlines everything on the screen.  You can hear everything you need to hear very clearly, while the sound still retains a measure of hand camera microphone quality.

Much like a cartoon, [Rec]2 is  frantically paced, a tense horror movie with no boring bits.

Starring:
Jonathan Mellor
Ferran Terraza
Manuela Velasco
Javier Botet
Pablo Rosso

Screenplay:
Jaume Balagueró
Manu Díez

Director:
Jaume Balagueró
Paco Plaza

Four out of five Vincents

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