Director: Jaume Balaguero, Paco Plaza
Cast: Jonathan Mellor, Oscar Sanchez Zafra
Plot: As the events of the first movie die down to a close, a SWAT team escort a devious medical official into the building to secure the location.
[.REC] 2 could be one of the most intriguing horror sequels I have seen yet. Set not just following the first film, but literally taking place as soon as the last scene of the first movie closed, [.REC] 2 follows directly on from the original. A lot of the energy of the first half comes from the sense that the directors intended the two movies to be watched back to back. While the cast jumps to the SWAT response team, everything else is business as usual. We are back in the same setting, the same blood stain on the lobby floor, the same eerie dark corridors… the segue is faultless. There is also no time wasted in getting back to the thrills. While [.REC] did the typical found footage trick of slowly fumbling around with its lead cast before hitting the pulse-pounding finale, it only takes the sequel a few moments to get back up to the loft, where the killer punchline took place. Also, perhaps in an attempt to outshine the carbon copy American rip-off, [.REC] 2 begins to explain its zombie. While we are definitely dealing with zombies here, albeit the 28 Days Later infected variety, director Balaguero opens up a rich origin for the monster, which fuels the first half of the movie. It all hangs in the balance of the medical official tagging along with the SWAT team and who is the only person in contact with the military quarantine unit outside. It doesn’t take too long for the sequel to almost outshine the first one. The first half is astonishingly creepy with wall-climbing child zombies and some spooky visuals that fuel the horror fans love of this breakout horror flick. The ending too packs a few decent twists that not only fuel more sequels, but end with a stomach-turning final shot that sends the movie out with a chilling bang.
Sadly, there are too many mistakes. In trying to be bigger and better than both the original and the American copycat franchise, [.REC] 2 pushes itself into too many corners. Some of the problems come from the same found footage issues I have with most of the sub-genre. Bloody set-pieces are delivered by craftily turning the camera to a purposeful bad angle, so we feel all the scares, but see none of the budget-draining gore. If it hadn’t been done so often, we might have called it clever, but by now, it is a frustrating and sadly predictable staple of the found footage genre. While the build-up to the jumps are [.REC]’s strong point, when the zombie actually jumps out, it is a blurry scrabble than makes little to no sense to the viewer. It gives the movie a constant state of anti-climatic skirmishes. The bigger issue comes from a mid-act cast shift. The action jumps over to a group of teenagers accidentally trapped in the infected building. We restart the movie and go through the same beats again, until the two groups of characters eventually intersect and continue the main strand of story. There are a few clever beats here (the same scene played out twice from a different viewpoint), but there isn’t quite enough reason for the change in pace. It is clearly the writers running out of time and needing to desperately fill their running time. Worst of all, the three teenagers are horrible to spend time and bring almost nothing to the story. In fact, characters are the sequel’s biggest let-down. With the first one, we had plucky Manuel Velasco and Pablo Rosso at the heart of the movie, two likeable heroes we shared the fear with. Here, I would struggle to call anyone the lead hero. The cameraman is unusually silent, wordless even when his friends are being devoured by monsters. The SWAT team are red shirts, even the commander who takes the majority of the screen time, but develops very little. Mellor is probably the closest we get to an anti-hero, although he is so mysterious, we never connect with him. As a result, [.REC] 2 boasts an empty treat. A brilliantly crafted story told with rote found footage cheats and zero personality.
Zombie Kill of the Movie: death by firework.
Final Verdict: While it serves horror fans nicely and the plot is smart in places, [.REC] 2 lets itself down with a weak character list.