Thursday, June 24, 2010
[REC] 2 (2009) Yep, Afraid Of The Dark Again
It's no secret I'm a gigantic fan of the masterful Spanish horror film [REC]. Go back and read my review of it to see just how lovingly I spoke of it. When I heard a sequel was in the works, I had one of those rare reactions to news of a continuing story: joy. It wasn't going to be just a sequel with different characters, same story as the first, but with a bigger budget and more "Hollywood-like" promotion. It had some of those traits, but it was more than those. It did have different characters, but in a logical way. The story is only the same because it's a continuation of the first movie. In fact, it starts about 15 minutes after [REC] finishes. It dives in and doesn't look back for one instant. Well...maybe one instant, but that's towards the end of the movie, and I'm not spoiling it here because it's a chiller.
I'll tell you now: this review won't be like most others. There won't be a detailed blow-by-blow here. The entire movie is pretty straightforward and full of spoilers that you really need to see for yourself. So let me give you some of the basics and we'll go from there...
Not long after the first movie ends, a special operations group prepares to enter the quarantined apartment building along with a member of the Ministry of Health in order to get some control of the situation. There's some nostalgia for the viewer upon entering that old building. There's that enormous bloodstain in the lobby along with empty handcuffs attached to the stairs. It's about then you remember something that the new characters don't know: not all of the infected died and you know they're just running around somewhere in this building. Revisiting (well, for us anyway) the penthouse, there's a little reminder of what the characters are dealing with through the pictures, the Evil Dead-like tape recording, and the murky atmosphere.
After some eerie music starts playing in an apartment, one of the special ops team runs afoul of some infected and quickly becomes one himself.
They lock him in a room and the dude from the Ministry of Health drives a knife into the door, then hangs a rosary from it. This actually stops the infected. Yeah, and that guy from the Ministry of Health? Owen is his name, and he's from a ministry, all right, but it's not the one of health. He's an agent of the Vatican with a license to exorcise, and he's kicking ass and taking rosary beads. The other officers aren't too happy about being deceived, and they're even more perturbed when they discover the real reason they entered this death trap: Owen needs to obtain the blood of the first possession victim, Niña Medeiros, kept somewhere in the darkened, ruined apartment that was home to a previous Vatican agent who experimented on Medeiros. Oh, and for a glimpse at the Medeiros girl, watch the ending of [REC]. Yeah, that's her. Shiver at your convenience now.
There are several attacks on Owen and the officers, and some by very recognizable faces from the first movie:
Around the confusion of one attack, a seemingly uninfected man is killed and thrown over the guardrail. The agents catch a glimpse of another party of uninfected people before another wave of attacks occur, splitting them up - which is never a good thing, face it. A frantic and revealing skirmish with the little girl from the first movie that ultimately ends the point of view from the agents' lone camera.
The film goes back a bit and starts down a different path as we meet three young pranksters who are high on adventure and daring-do. They think descending into the sewers and coming up into the quarantined building will be a hoot. Not exactly. They meet one of the firemen from the first movie who didn't go inside, and the father of the infected little girl, who are desperately trying to reach their friends and family inside. They find themselves locked - rather, welded - inside the apartment building. From there, it's a parallel story to that of the special operations team until they all meet up in an apartment. That pivotal scene leads to the final, white knuckle, screaming descent of the roller coaster as the ultimate push to either finish the mission (according to Owen) or simply survive begins.
I honestly can't get into the rest of the movie here. I could, and I could spoil everything for you, but I don't want to do that. I want you to go into this movie with the same blank slate I did, knowing what might happen, but feeling that thrill along the way as you discover what actually does happen. The ending is chilling not so much for what you see, but for what you could see if the film hadn't ended. And that's all I'll tell you. Even the lead-up to the ending includes clues and tip-offs that are better left uncovered by you as you watch.
[REC]2 is a brilliant sequel in my eyes not only because it's wild, intense ride, but because it's a logical progression from the first film. You see characters from the first one - logically - because they've been infected and weren't "killed" in the first movie. Scroll back and see that picture with the bald fireman to see what I mean. If you'd seen the first movie, you know who that is.
When you have entries in the "found footage" or "cinema verite" genre, there are inevitable comparisons to The Blair Witch Project, simply because that was the film that made the mainstream audience aware of the style. Makes some sense, but the films are worlds apart. There was one film that the [REC] series compares favorably to, and that's Demoni (Demons) from 1985, and a film that I gushed about in another review. I'm not the only one who saw that similarity, as my friend Jim from Movie Brain Rot mentioned it to me as well in a discussion. A dark setting and rapid infection from a nefarious source, nasty fluids and frantic escape plans - it's a nod and a wink, however intentional, to Lamberto Bava's Demoni.
Without spoiling anything for you, allow me to list a few indelible images and scenes that make [REC]2 so much of a trip
* Revisiting old settings: the lobby, the penthouse, the bloody landing, the fabric store. You definitely should see the first one again to fully appreciate it all.
* The building itself, a character in its own right. It's like a labyrinth, and seems larger on the inside than it does outside. The apartments seem to go on forever, especially in the dark.
* Ah, the dark. The darkness itself is not only a brilliant mood-setter, but much more important of an element than you think. Trust me, you'll see.
* The rocket. I'm sorry, but one scene involving some fireworks made me laugh out loud.
* The continuity. You'll find yourself saying, "ah, so that's where that came from." Not only that, but the camera manages to catch important establishing shots that allow you, the viewer, to figure certain things out. A film that makes you use your brain? *gasp*
* The "interference" that crops up here and there on the film. Watch when it occurs, and it only adds to the chilling air of what's happening.
* There's a scene involving a small pool of water that will give you shivers when you wrap your mind around what happens. See my reference to the "darkness" above.
* The ending. Yeah.
It's safe to say that I love this movie, and that's not just because I watched a pair of stinkers before it. [REC]2 has everything I love in a horror movie: thrills and chills, an enthusiastic air about it, clever use of atmosphere and setting, moments that let you figure out the details, a feeling that you can't control what's happening thanks to a better use of first person than most "found footage" films. It may not be everyone's cup of tea, but from what I've seen, the tea table I'm sitting at is crowded.
Now, who wants biscuits?
Until next time, fellow survivors, the rules remain the same: don't get bitten. Now enjoy the trailer for this fine film, [REC]2: