Friday 28 May 2010

[REC] 2 review

[REC] 2 (18, 84 mins)
Directors: Jaume Balaguero,Paca Plaza
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

Two years ago, during a period that ushered in a rash of urban DIY horrors that included the likes of Cloverfield and George Romero’s Diary of the Dead, Spanish horror [REC] exploded onto screens with unprecedented ferocity and success.

Taking place over the course of several harrowing hours, it followed Angela, a bubbly TV presenter and her cameraman as they shadowed a Madrid fire crew on their night shift, where a routine call-out to an apartment building turned into an unexplained, unstoppable zombie outbreak, the gimmick being that everything was seen from the TV camera’s point of view.

As an exercise in sustained horror, [REC] has rarely been bettered and remains one of the scariest films of the last couple of decades, able to provoke actual cower in your seat, hide your eyes and hope-the-monster-doesn’t-get-you terror. It’s incredibly rare for that level of quality to be repeated in a horror sequel, and it’s not much of a surprise to learn that [REC] 2 doesn’t really come close to achieving it.

The first shot of the new film is the last shot of the first, as we see Angela being pulled into the darkness by an emaciated, mutated creature. With the building under quarantine to contain the outbreak, a police unit is sent in to document the situation, along with a government official who says he needs the blood of the original victim in order to make an antidote should the contagion spread. With each of them having helmet-mounted cameras, we’re now able to cut to multiple viewpoints, the whole point being that if it hasn’t been captured on camera, it hasn’t happened.

It was the variety of scares that impressed most first round, from slow creeping dread to jump-shocks that you absolutely will not see coming. Here, it’s not so much sustained terror anymore as sustained carnage, with almost every horror moment a variation on someone being attacked by one of the infected while the camera shakes violently and everyone screams.

Plot-wise [REC]2 starts to go slightly awry when a demonic possession element and Vatican intervention is introduced, making the film a lot more indebted to, and quick to pilfer from, The Exorcist than its own mythology. So while it’s slicker, better lit and even more accomplished in the way it uses long, superbly staged takes, there can be no denying that much of its power has been lost.

[REC]2 was a massive hit at the Spanish box office last year and there’s a sense, with two further sequels already planned, that it’s now more relevant as a cash cow than as innovative horror cinema.

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