(2010, Written by Jaume Balagueró, Manu Díez and Paco Plaza, Directed by Jaume Balagueró and Paco Plaza)
Picking up precisely where the previous [REC] left off, directors Jaume Balagueró & Paco Plaza (incidentally the only two directors to ever adapt celebrated novelist Ramsey Campbell to the big screen, with The Nameless and Second Name, respectively) return to not only capture lightning in a bottle twice, but very possibly best their 2007 classic. Once again, we enter the fearfull hallways of that bedevilled apartment complex, only this time (and keeping with the tradition of sequels of this sort), we enter not with unsuspecting firefighters and their accompanying news crew, but with a medical officer and a fully armed SWAT team complete with helmet mounted cameras (shades of James Cameron's Aliens permeate the first act). As is to be expected, all their guns and ammo make little difference when faced with the hordes of demon possessed cadavers born forth from the pits of hell. That's where Dr. Owen (Jonathan Mellor), an "official" from the Ministry of Health, comes in. When the team first encounter the black-eyed, ravenous infected, Owen fights them off using religious mantra and a rosary, which in turn reveals his true identity; that being a priest sent by the church to collect a blood sample from the Medeiros girl ([REC]'s patient zero, and unquestionably one of horror cinema's most chilling and terrifying visages ever committed to film (my heart briefly stopped when we encountered her the first time) and aid the other priest in charge of her. Naturally, it all gets terribly more complicated than that.
It is this story device, that the infected are in fact host to demons (revealed at the end of the first film and unfortunately dropped from that film's American remake, Quarantine), that truly brings [Rec] 2 to snarling life and sets it apart from it's previous, more reality-bound outing (but not jarringly so, in terms of tone and and execution the transition from either entry is seamless). Balagueró and Plaza take the promise inherent in [REC]'s final twist and deliver the supernatural goods, capturing the surreal dream logic of the best, otherworldly horror films (or, as I was often reminded of, Italian genre cinema along the lines of Fulci or Aregnto when they are at their most incoherent).
In all of [REC] 2's breakneck running time, it stumbles only once, pausing at the midway point to displace the action (and viewer) from the claustrophobic confines of the quarantined apartment building to the streets outside, introducing (in a wholly contrived manner) a new group of victims that will soon be joining the ranks of the consumed. Unfortunately, it kills the films crackerjack momentum and suffocating dread dead in it's tracks (allowing us, essentially, to breath) but fortunately, things do gather speed again once the new meat has been clumisly introduced into the situation. Along the way, we are reaquainted with some familiar faces, both transformed and otherwise (I must say as someone who really appreciates continuity, it is unbelievably awesome that the film makers chose to reuse some of the same possessed actors from the first film), gloriously sudden bloodshed, attempted exorcisms, heartpounding chases and a final twist in the building's dreaded attic that not only raises the stakes in the franchise's getting-weirder-by-the-moment-storyline, but also gives us another reason to fear the dark morso than these films already have made us do. Both a roller coaster ride of fun and relentlessly intense and horrendous in equal measure, [REC] 2 signifies itself as not only an exciting, just-as-capable followup to one of thee scariest movies of the last decade, but as springboard for what can now be considered a promising new franchise. The third film, already in production (in addition to a prequel), couldn't come soon enough.
[REC] 2 stars Jonathan Mellor (El barco), Óscar Zafra (My Prison Yard), Ariel Casas (My Name Is Juani), Alejandro Casaseca (There Be Dragons) and Pablo Rosso (Second Name, [REC]) and is currently available on DVD and Blu-Ray.
5 Skulls - The Best
4 Skulls - Very Good
3 Skulls - Good / Average
2 Skulls - Poor
1 Skull - The Worst