Title: [Rec] 2
Year of Release: 2009
Date Viewed: February 8th, 2012
MPAA Rating: R
In the spirit of a typical slasher villain, the horror genre will not die. You can mock it (the Scream franchise), kick it around (repackage the same stories and camera tricks) or just plain abuse it (countless amateur video productions) but it will always return so long as people enjoy having their personal sense of security scared away. The prime clients will search high and low for the next real shocker. My hat is off to them. The searches are often very long. A favorite stored quote from the years of servicing video store patrons originated from a conversation between one of the aforementioned horror aficionados and a co-worker. The common question "What's a good horror film you've seen lately?" was answered with the even more common "There are no good horror films." When someone says that, what he actually means is the system has failed to deliver anything fresh within a recent period of time. Horror gets away with a steady track of financial success by recycling the dependable methods. But for it to shine, innovation is mandatory: a rule that most other genres are lucky enough to elude without short-term repercussions.
At first glance, [Rec] 2 doesn't have much reason to offer something new. As a follow-up to a highly successful Spanish production that spawned an American remake and as a crowned grandeur to the ongoing "found footage" phenomenon, expectations are tied to familiarity. We want to see that formula work again. But the artists are a few steps ahead. The camera view, monsters and moments of panic all return. And there are new ideas presented here as a way of informing us that the [Rec] franchise is not just a one-gimmick ride. It's a chronicle that is destined to be remembered.
The big reason behind the series' initial attention is the unconventional approach to inducing scares. How often have we found ourselves waiting for trademark horror silence to be broken by loud noise? Or a long shot abruptly cutting away to something grotesque. [Rec] has that in scarcity but depends on psychological terror for bait. The film's "search procedure" narrative allows us to directly enter the viewpoint of the peril. Infected "monsters" appear in deep focus and stay within the frame for a considerable amount of time. It isn't always obvious when the threat is legit; a procedure that the film loves to exploit. Unless the "monster" is lurking in an adjacent room, we rarely lose awareness of the space the threat is occupying. The ones in deep focus don't stay that way for long. They thirst for blood and will swarm toward the camera because a living being is holding it. An effective merge of scientific and cinematic reasons for events.
[Rec] 2 begins almost immediately from where the previous film left off. With no surviving characters or cameras to continue the story, the perspective switches to a SWAT team's video camera. The officers are uninformed about the true story behind the quarantined apartment building. But the undercover clergyman that accompanies them understands everything; especially the importance of his role. One of the story's new spins that the previous film hinted at is revealed through this character's monologues. He explains that the infected apartment residents are now pawns of the Devil. They can be temporarily subdued by prayer, but a spreading outbreak is impossible to control unless an antidote is found; Its key ingredients are believed to reside within the blood of an early victim that lived in the apartment.
The sequel offers better chances for analyzing the infected behavior by the way that they're kept in the frame longer during attack scenes. Inspiration from The Exorcist is evident. The infected facial features are given an exaggeration makeover. They can imitate voices from living characters and behave rather comically when bound to furniture. Vomit scenes are thankfully absent.
Since the SWAT team has access to optimal monitoring equipment, the film switches between hand-held and headset camcorders. The latter presents a videogame-like style especially in scenes where the infected are attacking aggressively and the victim has to navigate through the labyrinth of apartment rooms to find safety. Another neat twist is the abrupt introduction of secondary characters. Some kids in the neighborhood pay the price for causing too much mischief by getting themselves trapped in the same apartment building. In a cleverly constructed sequence, the SWAT team's camera and the kids' camera intercept at the same storyline checkpoint. The film then detours into the kids' story and documents the events leading up to that encounter.
There's another twist that doesn't deserve to be spoiled. I'll just say that it ties all story angles in a way that's difficult to anticipate and it paves the way for future chapters. [Rec] 2 is a friendly reminder that not only do good horror films still get made but that the "found footage" gimmick that's currently losing steam in its reputation may not have even scratched the surface as far as how it can satisfy the thrill cravings.