Sony // 2009 // 84 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Gordon Sullivan // July 12th, 2011
Horror fans are a jaded lot. Decades of subpar sequels have ground us down, and the worst part is the occasional sequel that does work, meaning we have to sit through dozens of bad films just for the hope that a sequel will capture the magic of a solid original horror flick. [REC] 2 is one of those rare sequels that keeps horror fans going by taking everything successful about the first film and serving it up again with just enough of a twist to make it seem fresh again. [REC] 2 is an even more impressive achievement for being the sequel to a "found footage" horror film, a genre whose attempts at realism doesn't leave much room for sequels. Combine this excellent sequel with a solid DVD, and you've got a release horror fans are going to crave.
[REC]2 begins just a few minutes after the events of [REC], which saw a Spanish apartment building beset with monsters from the eyes of a TV reporter. This time, the SWAT team are going in with a representative of the Ministry of Health. Their goal is to retrieve some blood to find a cure for this difficult situation.
The "found footage" genre of horror films is a contentious one, with some fans eating up the simulate realism, while others are turned off by the nausea-inducing camera movements. I'm on the fence; some of these films I've enjoyed (Diary of the Dead), while others have left me cold (Cloverfield). [REC] 2 however helped me discover some of the aspects of these films that make for more compelling examples of the genre:
* Put it in a foreign language. I'm semi-joking here, but I have to say that not immediately knowing what the characters were saying added an extra layer of enjoyment for me. I think that in English, the characters in these found-footage films tend to sound really asinine (as most of us do in our daily life), but since I can't understand Spanish, the annoyance of hearing regular people say regular things wasn't nearly so overpowering. It also makes the whole situation just a little bit weirder, since they're obviously people just like the audience, but the language barrier adds an extra layer of weirdness to the setup, making it that much more unnerving.
* Stick to a single location. There are only two ways for found-footage films to generate scares: either they're tense because we don't know what's going to happen, or because of a jump-scare. Jump-scares get tiring easily, so filmmakers have to rely on tension to keep audiences interested. When characters can seemingly go anywhere and do anything it becomes much harder to generate tension in their predicament. [REC] 2 follows the original by generally staying inside the apartment building, and its gradual exploration gives a fixed boundary to the plot, which makes exploring each successive room that much more tense.
* Choose lots of camera angles. The whole point of these found-footage films is that they supposedly from the point of view of some random person who happens to have a camera when nasty things show up. That's great and all, but doesn't always make for a compelling piece of cinema. Anyone who's watched more than 5 minutes of home videos knows how tiring it is when seeing the same shot -- from the camera-person's shoulder, from a medium distance -- gets tiring in a hurry. [REC] 2 isn't afraid to put the cameras on the policemen (which works for both the plot and the visuals). Once it's been established that the cameras are helmet-cams, the filmmakers don't feel the need to belabor the point. Thus we get much more interesting angles than we're used to seeing in these kinds of films. When the film is visually compelling, it's that much easier to get involved in the story.
* Don't try too hard to maintain the feeling of reality. Some of these found-footage films seem to have a rule set, like if they include a cut that couldn't happen in real-life then the audience will suddenly jump out of their seats and denounce the film as a fraud. [REC] 2 definitely sticks to the genre conventions with its first-person style, but the film is also unafraid to switch to a different camera when the story demands it. There also seem to be less of those annoying "look at how authentic we are" moments like futzing with batteries and the like.
With all these things in its favor, [REC] 2 takes the strengths of the first film and builds on them with a few imaginative twists. It gets a DVD release worthy of those strengths. [REC] 2 was never going to be a reference disc, but the anamorphic transfer does a great job with the film's various video sources. There aren't any serious compression artifacts to be found, colors are strong, and any limitations in the presentation (like so-so black levels) are likely from the source rather than this transfer. The audio is similarly strong, with the surrounds doing some heavy lifting to create scary directional effects.
Extras start with an hour's worth of behind-the-scenes material. These featurettes take on three different scenes and combine production footage with interviews with the relevant cast and crew. It's a real treat to get to see how much work went into creating a first-person style look for the film. Then we get a nine minute featurette that looks at the apartment location through a tour with the art director. Next, we get 7 minutes of deleted scenes, mostly with the younger characters. After the film was made, the filmmakers travelled around the globe to promote it. We get a peek into this lifestyle with an "On Tour" featurette of their international travels, and 11 minutes of footage from a press conference at the prestigious Sitges Film Festival.
Those who absolutely detest found-footage films will probably not be swayed by [REC] 2, especially if the dislike is due to motion sickness.
[REC] 2 is one of those rare horror sequels that lives up to a compelling first film (and may surpass it for some viewers). With an interesting twist on a compelling twist, the film will easily appeal to hungry horror fans, and the solid DVD is easy to recommend.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 84 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Deleted Scenes