[Rec] was the Spanish horror sleeper-hit that left its audience as zombified as its stars – doomed to forever walk the Earth in a dull state, dead to Horrorwood’s conventional output and similarly boring in conversation with their ceaseless onslaughts on their subtitle-phobe friends that it genuinely is the ‘scariest film ever’.
Two years later and only 15 minutes have passed in the infamous apartment building. [Rec] 2 drops its audience immediately back into those same corridors with their familiar blood-stains, and we are all too aware of what awaits its new, unknowing heroes. And it’s in this play on expectations that [Rec] 2 is at its most confident. Knowing winks to the privileged few who saw the original abound in the early minutes, providing some surprising chuckles given its horror thoroughbred. It is certainly a movie for the initiated, but while the obligatory ‘for fans of the original’ parenthesis certainly applies that’s not to say there isn’t plenty for newcomers to enjoy, it’s more a question of why they’d want to.
[Rec] 2 – as with all sequels – obviously starts off standing on the coattails of [Rec] 1. But whereas great sequel success stories like Godfather Part II, The Empire Strikes Back and Simba’s Pride step off of those coattails, taking what made the original great and daring to improve upon it, [Rec] 2 stands cowardly in the shadow of its big brother. The final 30 minutes of [Rec] terrify thanks to the suspense the preceding 50 minutes builds, and so by picking up 15 minutes later the film manages to feel like more of the same, only less so. Throw in the heavily-armed SWAT team protagonists (Want to make you film less scary? Give everybody guns.) whose actions we follow through super high-tech head-up-displays and the whole film takes on the air of an add-on pack to a first person shooter.
That’s not to say that [Rec] 2 brings nothing new to the undead table. The multiple cameras allows for a ‘cutting in’ technique where we switch between perspectives, which has never been seen in a film of this type, and the introduction of another camcorder lets the creators play with interesting concepts of rewinding and jumping back in the narrative. As each element is revealed the heart leaps at the possibilities of how they can be used to terrify, and so it’s all the more disappointing when the direction the film goes with them is the most contrived and unexciting. This goes too for the suggestion of a religious connection from the first film which fascinated originally but is only left to stagnate and confuse when followed up in the sequel. It was inevitable in a Spanish horror for the proceedings to take a very Catholic, Exorcist-y turn for the worst, but it’s just a shame that while the first film only hinted at a greater evil, its sequel seems to fumble the ball, accidentally pulling down the mixed-metaphorical curtain to reveal that the makers aren’t entirely clear on all the details of this world they’ve created.
All that said, [Rec] 2 remains one of the more original and truly frightening horrors we can expect this year. Its flaws stand out so uncomfortably because they upset up what clearly could be a genuinely startling new horror franchise. It is not a bad horror film – bad horror films fester and replicate ad nauseum, and rarely – if ever – inspire you with new possibilities. [Rec] 2 inspires its audience at regular intervals to imagine the possibilities of where it could have gone. Let’s only hope that there’s a [Rec] 3 in the making to live up to that promise.