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Spanish directors Jaume Balagueró and Paco Plaza return for more shaky handheld camera action in “[Rec] 2”, the follow up to their much lauded 2007 genre hit, which provided a much needed shot of adrenaline to the post “28 Days Later” fast moving zombie subgenre. Touted as being to its predecessor what “Aliens” was to “Alien”, the film promises even more in the way of screaming flesh eaters, with the horde this time pitched against somewhat more substantial opponents in the form of a fully armed SWAT team. Like the original, the film has gone down extremely well with domestic audiences and at international horror festivals, having won a number of awards and been picked up for wider release.
The plot takes off right from the end of the first film, as a doctor enters the surrounded tenement building where the zombie outbreak has been contained, with a SWAT team (all of whom handily have video cameras on their helmets) for protection as he gathers samples and tries to work out how to prevent the horror from spreading. Needless to say, things soon go very, very wrong, as the undead inhabitants are still hungry for flesh and eager for new victims. Matters are further complicated when a bunch of rebellious young teens (also sporting a video camera, naturally) sneak into the building, quickly realising the stupidity of their mistake.
There really isn’t a great deal more to “[Rec] 2”, with Balagueró and Plaza being largely content to offer a steroids enhanced rerun of the original, taking the action up a couple of notches and increasing the violence in place of trying anything new with the formula. This works well, up to a point, and the film is an intense, thrilling rollercoaster ride that keeps the viewer exhilarated and gripped throughout. The conceit of the SWAT team being armed with cameras as well as guns is naturalistic enough, and arguably works better than having to justify characters keeping filming in the face of certain death and evisceration. This does make for some pretty spectacular and vicious set pieces, as the hapless police are quickly stalked and whittled down, and the film has an impressive amount of sudden jump scares and nasty moments of half seen brutality. Scenes of the creeps being literally blown apart by heavy weaponry are a great deal of fun, and the film has more than its fair share of crowd pleasing money shots.
Unfortunately, the film never quite reaches the giddy heights of the original thanks to a complete lack of interest generating atmosphere, or more importantly in its characters, most of whom are obviously dispensable ghoul fodder. Whereas in the first film a fair amount of tension was generated by not knowing which of the believable, man on the street tenants was likely to be picked off next, here things don’t really click, as none of the cast really stand out or catch the interest.
Whilst it is entertaining enough to watch them being slaughtered or worse, its hard not to feel that a little more effort in audience involvement would have gone a long way. To be fair, Balagueró and Plaza do try to shake things up a little, throwing in a few odd twists and taking the film further into supernatural territory, giving it the amusing feel of a modern day, reality television version of Lamberto Bava’s classic “Demons”. Things do get pretty wacky and even a little daft towards the end, though this helps to keep the film entertaining amongst all the familiar scenes of panic and high pitched shrieking.
Clocking in at around an hour and twenty minutes, “[Rec] 2” certainly never outstays its welcome, and basically offers more of the same, being almost as good as, if rather interchangeable with the original. Whilst this is not necessarily a bad thing, and the film is head and shoulders above most other recent similarly themed efforts, it must be hoped that Balagueró and Plaza take a few more risks with the inevitable, though still hotly anticipated “[Rec] 3”.
Jaume Balagueró, Paco Plaza (director) / Jaume Balagueró, Manu Díez, Paco Plaza (screenplay)
CAST: Jonathan Mellor … Dr. Owen
Manuela Velasco … Ángela Vidal
Óscar Zafra … Jefe
Ariel Casas … Larra
Alejandro Casaseca … Martos
Pablo Rosso … Rosso
Pep Molina … Padre Jennifer
Andrea Ros … Mire