Mark Reviews Movies

[REC] 2

1 Star (out of 4)

Directors: Jaume Balagueró and Paco Plaza

Cast: Jonathan Mellor, Manuela Velasco, Oscar Sánchez Zafra, Ariel Casas, Alejandro Casaseca, Pablo Rosso

MPAA Rating: R (for strong bloody violence, disturbing images and pervasive language)

Running Time: 1:25

Release Date: 6/4/10 (video on demand); 7/9/10 (limited)

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Review by Mark Dujsik | July 8, 2010

In between the minimalist, hand-held camera thriller [Rec] and its sequel, there was a Hollywood remake of the first movie called Quarantine. It is essentially the original movie with a different cast and a drearier, dingier, shakier ambiance.

Directors Jaume Balagueró and Paco Plaza return to the same Barcelona apartment building just after the events of the original in [Rec] 2, and they bring with them the influence of the visceral mindset and visual aesthetic of their predecessor's Americanization and throw in some spiritual silliness to go along with it.

Just as the events of the first movie are winding down, a SWAT team, led by the "Boss" (Oscar Sánchez Zafra), is on its way to the apartment complex where, hours ago, a viral outbreak caused the health department to quarantine everyone inside it. As they drive, they do an equipment check, and Balagueró and Plaza show the audience the result of profitable marketing and rights-selling.

This team is not only equipped with a new high-definition  digital camera but also miniature ones attached to the team members' respective helmets, whose feeds the main camera operator can cut into at any time. There is also a nifty, little light meter in the bottom left corner of the feed, and the team member's name appears in the top right.

At the hot spot, SWAT meets Dr. Owen (Jonathan Mellor), an official with the health department, who is in charge of this operation and lets everyone know any chance he can. The team cannot leave until Owen gives the go-ahead, and the powers-that-be are using voice recognition to make sure it's Owen saying so.

They enter the building and revisit the confined locales from the first movie. There are the handcuffs attached to the stairs' railing. There is all the blood on the floor from the killings and bleeding, infected folks chasing and jumping out at people. There's the apartment where the old lady who started the whole ordeal for the heroes of the first movie was "killed" a few times (and is "killed" here again). Owen's interest is in the penthouse, where intrepid reporter Ángela (Manuela Velasco) made her last stand. Or maybe it wasn't. Either way, the camera she came in with is still going strong and outlasts two others.

As it turns out, the virus isn't actually a virus, and the people with the bloodshot eyes trying to bite people aren't actually infected. Except that maybe it is and they are. See, this infection is the result of priest trying to isolate the chemical composition of demonic possession. So the infected are actually suffering from demon-itis.  And Owen isn't a doctor, but he might have played one in his seminary's production of My Fair Lady.

The result is not-zombies that are susceptible to the rites of exorcism, although, if one doesn't have a crucifix handy, a bullet to the head works even better.

The sequel only adds further gimmicks to the already gimmicky haunted house formula of the original. The helmet cameras are present only to allow characters to explore room and air ducts in the building alone, as it's always the best survival strategy in any horror movie scenario to break away from the herd.

Balagueró, Plaza, and Manu Díez's script adds a secondary narrative, which doubles back on the timeline to when the SWAT team first arrives, with a trio of teenagers who break into the tenement. Their motivation for doing so is shaky at best (something about earning money for it), and their existence in the movie is only to pad out the running time and to add to the potential body count after some of the SWAT team have bitten the dust.

The camera shakes and undergoes technical problems with more regularity this time around. Assaults from the viral demons are visually incoherent, and the trick audio hollowing out because the camera gets hit becomes old fast. So does the tendency for characters to drop it on the ground for enigmatic static shots of mysterious happenings and for others to kindly shoot scenes (like Owen's interrogations of demons) at low angles entirely for dramatic effect.

While it eventually veered into a series of startle moments, the original at least managed to establish an air of unease and the feeling of events happening in the moment. [Rec] 2 never accomplishes anything near that (although the grown version of the demon's first victim is still pretty freaky), coming across instead as a thoughtlessly assembled sellout.

Copyright © 2010 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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