Title: REC 2 (2009)
Director/Writer: Jaume Balaguero, Paco Plaza
Jaume Balaguero and Paco Plaza’s [REC] (2007) was a horror film that presented us with the premise of a TV reporter named Angela Vidal. She is doing a special report on the life of firemen. While she is interviewing some of the firemen, the firefighters get a call from a woman who says she is trapped in her building and needs help. So, the firemen answer the call, and the TV reporter Angela Vidal and her cameraman Pablo follow the firemen into the building. They are not really sure what they are getting into, but Angela and Pablo follow the firemen because they think they are getting one hell of a report! Problem is that once they get inside, the government locks down the building! No one is to go in our out! They soon discover that the tenants of the building are infected with some kind of virus that makes them rabid and murderous. This first film ends on a very ambiguous note, we are not really sure what has caused this “virus”, and we never get any questions answered as to why everything is happening. Now, here comes the sequel [REC] 2 which attempts to answer some of these questions for us. What exactly happened inside of that apartment building in Barcelona?
[REC] 2 starts 15 minutes after the first film, with the building still in complete lock down. Since there is no word from anyone in the building, the government decides to send in a SWAT team (or as they are called in Spain GEO’s) to investigate. This time, for some reason, the government decides to send in a priest with the SWAT team. We soon discover that the tenants of the building are actually possessed by demons! And the priest is being sent in to get some sort of an antidote for the virus. Will the SWAT team find the antidote? Will we ever really get an answer as to how it all began? Can the virus be contained?
Normally, this kind of film presents very little surprises for the weathered horror film watcher. Why? Because horror fans have seen this kind of film thousands of times already. It’s that movie where everyone is running from room to room, running away from the demons, trying to survive. Every once in a while a monster pops up and has a rumble with one of the good guys. One of the good guys probably dies in a gruesome way. Then we go on searching the building again, from room to room, and suddenly another monster pops up, kills somebody else in a gruesome way and repeat, ad nauseum, until the last frames of the film. In the hands of a bad filmmaker, watching a film like this one can be torture, just look at what happened with the american remake for [REC] called Quarantine (2008). Wow, was that movie boring! Films like [REC] 2 are not deep, symbolic or metaphorical, their purpose is one and one alone, to try and scare you. And [REC] 2 is just that. It’s void of any depth or meaning. This is a straight forward monster movie, with the protagonists trying to escape with their lives intact. I normally get bored to death with this kind of movie because I find them so redundant, it’s the same formula repeated every ten minutes through out the whole film. So in this sense, [REC] 2 offers nothing new.
What keeps [REC] 2 interesting though is that it uses the POV technique, where we see the whole film through the cameras that the SWAT team carries on their helmets. So everything is more immediate and in your face. It also means that there is a lot of shaky cam involved, so if you don’t like shaky cam, don’t even bother. But I personally enjoy this kind of movie precisely because it gets you right in the action, and in this case, right in the horror. The fact that we see the whole film through video cameras gave the filmmakers the opportunity to exploit the way night vision works. Aside from letting us see in the dark, night vision makes things look spooky and evil in a way. And the filmmakers exploit this every step of the way. There is a whole sequence that revolves around what you can and cannot see with night vision, that scene was pretty original.
Speaking of this films horror element, I found it interesting how they decided to go with the supernatural answer to the whole situation. Where the first film didn’t really give us any answers, on this film we discover that its demons that are responsible for everything! Now for unbelievers such as myself this takes the film down a notch, because I find the whole exorcism/demon angle kind of silly. To me, non of that hocus pocus bull crap is real to me at all. In fact, with films like this I feel like religion is being shoved down my throat because I am being forced to believe that Catholicism is the one and only true religion, which of course just isn’t true. But whatever, for this kind of film I simply suspend disbelief and go with the films premise. Weird thing is, that for all my incredulity I actually like supernatural themed movies. I find them incredibly fun; in the same way I find fantasy films fun.
I found the whole thing with people transferring their demon possession to others by bite kind of confusing because a person possessed by a demon means that their body is inhabited and being controlled by an evil spirit from hell. How exactly does being possessed by a demon get transferred to another person by a bite? You either get possessed by a demon or not. A demon isn’t a decease or a virus, it’s an entity that invades your body. It’s not an infection. It just didn’t make much sense to me how you transfer being possessed by a demon to another person as if it was some sort of decease. But whatever, I decided to ignore that and just go with the logic that the filmmakers were trying to present to me, which is normally what we have to do with any film we watch anyways.
I enjoyed how [REC] 2’s supernatural angle gave the filmmakers the opportunity to play with more horror elements than on the first movie, which also gives a chance for the filmmakers to show their influences. In one awesome scene, the good guys trap a possessed child and start asking her questions. The whole scene was very reminiscent of The Exorcist (1973). I’m sure the filmmakers were intentionally paying homage to that classic horror film. The possessed child spews sacrilegious comments similar to those Regan says in The Exorcist. This film also shows its influences in another scene, where the good guys have to test a blood sample to see if it is the right one. They test the blood in the exact same way they tested it in John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982) and the blood reacts in the exact same way, by jumping up into the air. The whole idea of people being trapped inside of a building infested by demon possessed individuals reminded me of Lamberto Bava’s Demons 2 (1986), the Italian horror movie about an apartment complex who’s tenants also begin to get possessed by demons. The only difference being that [REC] 2 takes place in a much smaller building, and as a result feels a whole lot more claustrophobic.
What else can I say about [REC] 2? Well, that in spite of its familiar premise, I enjoyed it because of the way it was directed and shot. It’s not what you say, but how you say it, and these guys know what makes a good horror movie. Lots of darkness, lots of blood, everything was shot documentary style, in your face, fast. And the supernatural elements simply make everything spookier this time around. All the questions you had after watching the first [REC] are answered on [REC] 2. It’s not mind blowingly original, but it is well made and entertains. I hear this sequel was so successful that two more [REC] films are in the works [REC] Genesis, in which we find out how it all began and [REC] Apocalypse in which we see how the contagion spreads through out the world. Time will tell if these two other films get made, but it should be interesting to see how these directors work with films that are larger in scope.
Rating: 4 out of 5