Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Night of Terror #29: [REC] 2

Hello Halloweenies. In the hopes of getting the blog caught up in time for the Big Day, I'm going to run two guest spots in a row, today's second one being from my good friend and future Taylor Swift song subject Jere Pilapil. Here he is on [REC] 2, which I have not seen and thus am not sure how to type - hope I got it right.

"Just add priest"; that should have been the subtitle for [Rec] 2, the sequel to the 2007 not-zombies-but-c'mon-who-ya-foolin' shaky cam horror film. [Rec] set itself apart from other zombie fare by positing a religious aspect to the "virus" that sends those infected by it into a rage. American zombie movies tend to explain via science; the [Rec] series uses demonic possession. So, it makes sense that [Rec] 2 would double down by having a priest lead a SWAT team into the house from the first film.

The original [Rec] was scary enough. It's been too long for me to recount the details well (I need to rewatch), but it was definitely the last horror movie I watched to legitimately scare me. So, I was looking forward to seeing this one for awhile. All in all, [Rec] 2 is a worthwhile sequel that doesn't deepen the series' mythology at all but moves the story along logically (and, of course, sets up a sequel). [Rec] was a zombie movie in a haunted house, and [Rec] 2 takes the obvious sequel route of simple sending even people into the same house.

The choice to have a priest in the lead, surprisingly, does not reveal any insight into how this demonic virus came to be. But, his very presence adds some gravitas to what could be a terrible retread. Jonathan Mellor is excellent as the priest, his performance a feast of bug-eyed intensity and yelling Latin sounding things between interjections of "that was our last chance!" and "we can't leave now!"

Aside from a somewhat unnecessary diversion in the middle third (wherein we need to send more people into the house!), [Rec] 2 moves at a steady clip, carried by this performance. The shaky-cam style cinematography is more of a hindrance at this point (in both the series and in cinema in general), making it hard to see much of the action clearly. It almost emphasizes how faceless and interchangeable the SWAT team is. But the limited perspective sometimes works when building up to the various zombie attacks. (Also, the final third of the movie uses the camera's night vision to great effect.)

The action is the weakest point of the movie, ultimately, but that is somewhat inherent in the premise. Every attack by a zombie bears out more or less the same: 1. "What's that sound?" 2. A silhouette at the end of a hallway. 3. Screaming! Growling! 4. Either the attacker or the victim dies. The formula gets tiresome, so thankfully only the first 2/3 of the movie relies on it heavily, while the final 1/3 focuses on the Big Villain with some novel cinematic twists.

The [Rec] 2 offers ample tension in its short run time. Any time the story stays in the house where it’s undefined how many people might be infected and lurking, the movie feels fresh despite being a retread of the original. Supposedly, the third movie in the series takes a horror-comedy route, which seems about right. [Rec] was strong enough to handle a retread in [Rec] 2, but the genre’s limits demand massive changes to stay fresh.

*(I am trying not to spoil anything, but I will say that the movie cleaves almost completely evenly into three separate acts. They're not quite separate enough from each other to be a series of vignettes, but it' another construct that helps the movie stay relatively fresh for its 84 minutes [another wise choice, keeping these short].)

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