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'REC 2' Movie Review

About.com Rating 3.5 Star Rating

By

'REC 2' movie poster.
© Magnolia Pictures
Although the virus-run-amok flick Quarantine performed fairly well at the box office in 2008, most people in the US have never watched -- or even heard of -- REC, the original Spanish film upon which it was based. To be fair, the remake is so slavish that if you've seen it, you've basically seen REC, but since Quarantine 2 has yet to be made, if you want to see what happens after the final nerve-wracking scene in Quarantine, behold REC 2!

The Plot

Picking up immediately following the events in REC, the sequel begins with a four-man SWAT team preparing to enter the quarantined apartment building. They're told that there's a viral outbreak inside and are assigned to escort Dr. Owen (Jonathan Mellor) from the Ministry of Health in to survey the situation. What they find inside, however, is no simple virus, and Dr. Owen knows more than he's letting on. He thinks that he can concoct an antidote if he can find a blood sample from Patient Zero, a young girl named Tristana Medeiros. But a horde of swarming, contagious infected stands in his way.

Along for the ride is a group of civilians. Teens Tito (Pau Poch), Ori (Alex Batllori) and Mire (Andrea Ros) sneak into the building and get trapped along with a pair of men with ties to characters in the first film: a fireman looking to aid his lost coworkers and the father of Jennifer, the little girl whose dog had been sick. Eventually they team up with the SWAT officers to battle the infection, which turns out to have an otherworldly connection that could prove cataclysmic if unleashed on the unsuspecting public.

The End Result

Alejandro Casaseca and Claudia Silva in 'REC 2'.

Alejandro Casaseca and Claudia Silva in 'REC 2'.

© Magnolia Pictures
REC 2 is to REC what Aliens was to Alien: an adrenaline rush of a sequel that amps up the action and the stakes from the original film. The disease spreads faster, the infected are more grotesque, and they feel more definitively like zombies this time around -- taking multiple gunshots to the body and head without going down. With its dark corridors, first-person viewpoints, bloody carnage, and creatures around every corner, it plays like the most realistic video game ever -- and frankly, it's what game adaptations like Resident Evil and Doom should've been.

Like REC, the sequel is shot in a POV style that puts viewers squarely in the shoes of the characters, but unlike the original, it jumps into the fray right away -- with the SWAT team exploring the depths of the apartment building within the first ten minutes -- and rarely lets up for anything resembling character development. The Aliens comparison is apt not only because of the frantic action, but also because the story features a group of military-like toughs equipped with helmet cams, a la the Marine slaughter scene in the James Cameron film ("Game over, man!").

The multi-camera approach adds a variety of viewpoints that was missing from REC and provides directors Jaume Balaguero and Paco Plaza with the opportunity play around with different angles of the same action. (For good measure, they even throw in another video camera in the hands of the interloping teens.) Balaguero and Plaza appear to have honed the "shaky cam" technique of this sort of film to an art form, holding steady during action scenes just long enough to show us exactly what they want us to see, then utilizing the camera movement to mask some CGI or makeup elements that might otherwise feel unreal.

It's a calculated formula for success, generating a harrowing pace that exceeds the first film. However, it never creates the sheer terror of the original -- in part because it lacks REC's fear of the unknown and in part because the plot takes leaps of plausibility near the end.

The gritty realism that the POV format establishes is undermined by REC 2's increasingly supernatural plot. It's still fun, but you feel more like you're watching a movie than taking part in one. The direction in which the story goes is hinted at in REC (though conspicuously altered in Quarantine), and while it works for the most part, the final 10 or 15 minutes veer dangerously close to silly eye-rolling territory. Luckily, the film builds up enough good will through the first hour that you can allow some questionable plot twists.

The Skinny

Pau Poch in 'REC 2'.

Pau Poch in 'REC 2'.

© Magnolia Pictures
  • Acting: B (A little over the top, but maybe that's a cultural thing.)
  • Direction: B+ (Generates pulse-pounding action, although the scares could've been strengthened.)
  • Script: C+ (Manages to create a viable sequel where you might not imagine one, but the increasingly implausible supernatural elements detract from the overall experience.)
  • Gore/Effects: A- (Great character designs and gruesome gore.)
  • Overall: B (A slightly inferior but worthy sequel with a breakneck pace that rarely pauses long enough for you to catch your breath.)

REC 2 is directed by Jaume Balaguero and Paco Plaza and is rated R for strong bloody violence, disturbing images and pervasive language. Release date: July 9, 2010 (June 4 on-demand).

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