Thursday, 6 September 2012

[REC]² - review

2009 (Spain)

Contains spoilers.

Now I'm going to be a Debbie downer from the off. I enjoyed the first film, it wasn't perfect but it provided enough jumps and thrills to earn a solid 7/10 from me and left me eagerly anticipating this second outing. We'd been left with many unanswered questions and after a good debut thrill ride a sequel could only be better. So did it satiate my anticipation? In brief, no, not really. I kind of feel it was a hastily put together cash in with a hodgepodge plot thrown together at the last minute and an over-reliance on what it thought were the first film's key strengths. Ok, it's not all bad and directors and writers Jaume Balagueró and Paco Plaza obviously had a clear idea of where they wanted to take the franchise. The core narrative and direction is fine, it just could have benefited from more time and thought.

Following on immediately from [REC], [REC]² follows a small team of four special operations military types and Dr Owen (Jonathan Mellor), an official from the Ministry of Health as they enter the quarantined building to establish what the heck's been going on and gain control of the situation. Immediately being presented with lots of blood and the obvious signs that serious bad shit had gone down, the specialised and experienced unit ignore all their training and rather than establish control and work room to room they, under the instruction of Dr. Owen, make a bee line straight to the penthouse where he argues the source of the outbreak is.

With the roaming rabid zombies all taking a convenient five minute nap the team make it the top without incident where Dr Owen reveals his true identity, that of a Vatican priest and frontline religious problem solver sent to get a sample of blood from the Medeiros girl, help the old priest and save the world. Conveniently (I'll be using that word a lot) informing the team that they'll be isolated with no backup or external communication for the duration of their stay and that only he has the password to let them out, the rest of the film follows the priest and team stumble from one tense frenzied zombie encounter to another in an increasingly absurd, far fetched and implausible story.

A hallmark of [REC] was the shaky-cam-first-person perspective and Rec² is no different. Conveniently all the team are equipped with helmet-mounted video cameras but where-as for the most part Rec achieved a level of believability to why the camera was there and wasn't being turned off while all hell broke lose, in Rec² it felt a tad more forced, not necessarily from them having cameras turned on, but rather why their feeds weren't being transmitted to a control unit outside, and there was absolutely no back-up or central command.

Blood found, priest found, a world minutes away from salvation, and only thirty minutes in, a convenient complete you-can-see-this-coming-a-mile-away-so-why can't-they bungle sees our team and film back square one. The directors now obviously desperate for additional content throw some new victims, I mean characters, into the mix. A group of three teenagers, conveniently near by and conveniently curious,  team up with the father of little girl from the first film, conveniently convince a fire fighter to break the quarantine and let them in through a conveniently unguarded second entrance that's then conveniently welded up leaving them stranded with the rest.

And this is the crux of all my issues with the film; it's choc-stuffed with daft decisions obviously made to heighten tension and engineer horror scenes with high-impact and shock value, but it's all at the expense of retaining coherent narrative and maintaining authentic character behaviour. At some point someone forgot that the scares, the gore and the suspense were the tools that drove the story and characters of the first and not vice-versa. In [REC]² it's all turned around as they try and force the narrative to drive the shocks and scares. It doesn't work and feels mocked up throughout.

It's not all bad though. The zombie scenes are some of the most frantic and heart pumping I can remember. These are not slow rambling Romero zombies but savage, powerful and terrifying. The top tier special effects and closeness awarded from the first person perspective leads to genuine feeling of terror. [REC] worked in part because it was a character driven narrative and it's not surprising to see the [REC]² skimp in this area as well. You maybe didn't particularly like reporter Ángela Vidal (Manuela Velasco) in [REC] but you became invested in her character and as you followed her decent into fear the shocks and scares took on more substance. The soldiers and later teenagers of [REC]² are whilst well acted, unmemorable, one-sided and bland and any impact felt from their scares and inevitable mauling is reduced, as you realise you weren't invested in their characters from the start.

[REC]² is suspenseful, genuinely shocking, well filmed, solidly acted and has a good play with some interesting ideas, but it also suffers from unmemorable characters, an incoherent rambling unauthentic narrative full of cliché and more plot holes than a colander. It's not a bad film per se and if you like shocks at the expense of story it might work for you but as it is, and especially when put up against the original, a complete let down 4/10.


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