Review Date: July 21, 2011
Released by: Sony
Release date: July 12, 2011
MSRP: $26. 99
Widescreen 1.85 | 16x9: Yes
The original [●REC]
was kinda of spoiled for me. I saw the American remake, Quarantine
, first and I quite enjoyed it. It did, however, seem redundant to go back and watch the Spanish language original after the fact given how closely the remake followed its story and structure. I eventually did watch the original [●REC]
, which I also enjoyed, but it will never have the same impact that it would have had I seen it first. So, when it came time to review [●REC]²
, I was pretty enthusiastic. It may not replicate the experience of watch the original fresh, but it’d be a pretty good facsimile.
My one point of concern was that the sequel was going to pick up and run with the supernatural element introduced at the 11th hour in [●REC]
. I found it one of the silliest aspects of the original film and, after comparing the two, thought it was correctly dropped from the American remake. Was it a wise move to make the sequel a continuation of that plot thread?
Picking up, Halloween II style, immediately where its predecessor left off, [●REC]²
follows a Special Forces team as they’re called to the site of the original quarantine. Led by Jefe (Oscar Zafra
), they are assigned to escort Dr. Owen (Jonathan Mellor
) from the Ministry of Health into the hot zone and protect him while he assesses the situation. With orders to keep their mini helmet cameras rolling at all times, the group proceeds into the tenement where they find the aftermath of the first film. Following the bloody trail that leads up to the penthouse apartment, Dr. Owen is insistent that the officers touch nothing, only document the scene while he gathers evidence.
While investigating signs of possible survivors, point man Martos (Alejandro Casaseca
) is attacked and becomes one of the infected. He attacks the other members of the GEO team with the ferocity characteristic of victims of the virus, but when Dr. Owen starts reading a passage from the Roman Ritual (the Catholic book of Exorcism) he is transfixed by the words long enough to be pushed into and locked away in one of the bedrooms. As they head back up to the penthouse, the officers demand answers from Owen. He cryptically advises them to simply record what happens. Of course, since Owen is in charge of the operation no one can leave without his say so; the hermetic seal on the building will only be opened after Owen gives authorization.
Owen then reveals the true reason for his being there: he’s not actually a doctor with the Ministry of Health but a priest with the Catholic church. Medeiros, the young girl from the first film, had been under care and study of the Church which was interested in examining the physiological effects of possession to determine if there is a chemical or bacterial agent associated with it. The current outbreak is the result of their research into finding an antidote or immunization for demonic possession (you really need to question the wisdom of conducting such important, sensitive and potentially lethal research in a residential building, rather than a hot lab which the Church could very easily afford to establish). If they can find the original blood sample from patient zero, Medeiros, they can leave and doctors will be able to synthesize a cure.
They find a blood sample in a cooler hidden in the ceiling and when Owen tests it using a crucifix and some incantations, it bursts into flame. Unfortunately, the flame renders the sample completely useless and the hope of curbing the infection before it becomes an epidemic practically nil. As soon as that happens, in what must be serendipity or a case of writer’s convenience, a call rings out over the dispatch that civilian survivors have been spotted through the windows of upper level apartments. The team heads to the location of the survivors, hoping that they will be able to obtain the sample they need to synthesize a vaccine.
Sequels need to walk a fine line between replicating the experience of the original while still bringing something new and fresh to the story. The mantra is “the same thing, only different.” The best filmmakers to do this are usually the ones who created the original. That said, the end of the original [●REC]
introduced a supernatural/religious element to the story that seemed grossly out of place to me. I was wary of the decision to follow that plot thread in the second film. I need not have been – while the plot thread is the basis for the second film, it’s really just window dressing. This is a zombie movie first and foremost, perfectly in line with what has come before. Eliminate the religious overtones and you’ve got a highly polished re-tread of the original. It’s a somewhat awkward and roundabout way to give the audience the same thing, only different, but it works.
is heavy with incident, not so much with story or characters. It serves as an exercise in relentless pace and impact, not necessarily in sophisticated storytelling. We’re only ever given cursory introductions to any characters and they aren’t developed much along the way. Any characters that do strike a chord are the ones that are carried over from the first film. There is a half-hearted attempt to provide some more character moments with a group of new people who, in a credibility stretching plot development, manage to get into the quarantine zone. The efforts are clumsy and ineffective and seriously threaten to undermine the second half of the film. Luckily the film gets back to the business at hand before I totally checked out. This misstep winds up being the only serious blemish on the film, so it’s more than forgivable.
The individual set pieces are nothing new and [●REC]²
relies pretty heavily on jump scares and shock tactics. The stylish direction and slick production values are what elevate it from run of the mill zombie movie fodder. It’s not the most original movie ever made, but it’s made with a high degree of skill. I guess the effectiveness of [●REC]²
just underlines the inherent strengths of the genre’s tried and true tropes. With its narrow corridors and claustrophobic feel, the first forty minutes or so feel like the most perfect adaptation of the Resident Evil
games imaginable. If Paul W.S. Anderson ever abandons that franchise, Plaza and Balaguero should be first on the studio’s speed dial.
The film toys with the deeper themes of its religious trappings but is not really interested in exploring them. Most obvious are allusions to the priest abuse scandals and resultant cover-ups organized by the church. One of the film’s most chilling moments is when Owen solemnly intones that nobody must ever discover the truth of the experiments the church was performing in the tenement building. It’s not too hard to imagine that he’s talking about a different, real and equally horrifying tragedy. I couldn’t find any references to Catholic groups opposing the film, which shocks me more than any of the movie’s expertly crafted jump scares.
Although it’s not quite the issue in Europe that is in in the States, there’s also an undercurrent of the science vs. religion debate that’s going on between American fundamentalists and secularists. The church’s search for a biological explanation behind demonic possession seems like an exercise in self-defeating redundancy: something supernatural by definition cannot have a naturalistic cause. The film tries as hard as it can to reconcile the two positions in an ambiguous enough way that either side can read what they want into it. Again, had the film been seriously considering this as a subject matter, it could have become problematic. As it is, is lends just enough gravitas in between scenes of throat-tearing carnage.
The format of the series itself also seems to be a statement on how information is filtered through the media, and how only spectator shot footage can truly be trusted. Characters are constantly demanding that the cameras keep rolling no matter how horrible the visage they’re recording. One such admonition has even become the unofficial tag line of the series. It’s not hard to imagine Julian Assange salivating over getting his hands on the footage from the [●REC]
films were they records of actual events.
It also seems to want to be a catalogue of references to other movies. In addition to using the found footage style of Cannibal Holocaust
or Blair Witch Project
, the boarded up house under zombie siege straight from Night of the Living Dead
, and the homage to 28 Days Later
(calling the lightning fast zombies “infected”), they add references to The Exorcist
and The Thing
. This is how to do homage properly: it doesn’t overtly call attention to itself and serves a function in the story. It’s not just an excuse for the filmmakers to pat themselves on the back in congratulations of their encyclopaedic movie knowledge. The film actually benefits from our meta knowledge; since we’re all familiar with the blood test scene from The Thing, we’re waiting for the payoff. Then [●REC]²
subverts our expectations of how the scene will end while paying the off in a way that still services the story.
wisely doesn’t linger too long on any of these themes; its greatest strength is the visceral impact of its breathless pace. Even with only an 84 minute run time, [●REC]²
has as many supporting characters and subplots as it can handle without totally collapsing in on itself. The filmmakers walk a razor’s edge and accomplish a very difficult task: they’ve made a sequel to a popular original that improves on its predecessor and still works as standalone film. I was floored by [●REC]²
while I was watching it but, when I stopped to think about it, I found it even more impressive after the fact.
is being released in the US only on DVD at this time. However, this should not deter you from picking it up. [●REC]²
is simply one of the best DVDs I’ve ever had the pleasure to review. This is a low budget Spanish language horror and not some mega budget Hollywood blockbuster, but you’d never know it from the picture quality. I’m always hesitant to declare something “flawless,” but I literally could not find a single thing to criticize about the video quality on this release. Any “flaws” are a result of the kinetic style of the cinematography. The constantly moving cameras make it difficult to get a screen cap that really does this release justice… which is good, in a way, since you’ll be as impressed as I was when you finally watch it.
The Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 audio is every bit as excellent as the video. Instead of pouring on the bombast and trying to hammer us into submission, it uses sound, and the lack of sound, to create atmosphere. In the scene where the team first enters the lobby, there’s a distinct lack of ambient sound – the sounds that are there are magnified by contrast, not by cranking the volume. Not to say the track doesn’t flex its muscles at times, too. Check out the scene where the snipers are firing at the building. If you close your eyes you can aurally follow the path of each bullet as it whizzes through the sound field. It’s an exceptional sound mix that’s exceptionally well presented.
No additional language dubs are provided.
Like the feature, all the supplements are presented in Spanish with English subtitles. Looks like they were ported directly from the Spanish release, all the on screen titles are in Spanish as well.
First up are four Deleted and Extended Scenes (6:49) cut from the second half of the film, starting with an extended introduction to the pranking teens. Considering that this section is the weakest in the film, I’m glad these scenes were deleted. Even the last two scenes, involving the SWAT team making grisly discoveries aren’t terribly interesting in their own right.
Behind the Scenes Featurettes (53:28) are step by step breakdowns of FX and action intensive scenes (Scenes 22, 23, 47). There’s an impression that found footage filmmakers are just flying by the seat of their pants. These features show the massive amount of planning that goes into the production of a single scene, how even spontaneous moments are minutely planned and choreographed. It speaks to the filmmaker’s skill that these scenes play out on camera in a spontaneous way. Interesting: Jonathan Mellor explaining how he drew inspiration for his performance from George Lucas’ Star Wars prequels. Did not see that one coming. It’s easy to dismiss found footage films such as Rec, but these features will instil a healthy respect and appreciation for how much care and craft went into making [●REC]²
. Although I’ve seen a million FX make up demonstrations, it was nice to see a film with such a modern, 21st century hook employing good, old fashioned practical effects.
In A Walkthrough of the Set (8:51) production designer Gemma Fauria highlights some of the locations that posed the greatest challenges when shooting. Interesting, but a little goes a long, long way.
Stiges Film Festival Press Conference (10:59) is exactly what it sounds like. There are some interesting tidbits but its shot in a totally static way and is too long.
[Rec] 2 on Tour (8:40) follows the Rec team as they pimp their film at various European festivals, starting with the first time they viewed [●REC]²
with an audience at the Venice Film Festival. This feature is pretty thin, consisting mostly of red carpet arrivals. They talk about things they never show: don’t show audience reactions or even talk about the film’s reception. It’s just a montage of them arriving at festivals and doing pre-screening publicity. No real context or insight and not very interesting. Basically reads like a list of film festivals the film played at.
The decision not to release [●REC]²
on Blu-ray at this time is an odd one. This release is fantastic, but one can only imagine how much of an improvement the inevitable Blu-ray release is. I would highly recommend ordering the Canadian Blu-ray set of [●REC] 1
, waiting until an official US Blu-ray release is announced, or picking up [●REC]²
on DVD previously viewed. That’s not to say that those who don’t have the patience to wait won’t be rewarded: this is a stellar release in every possible way and well worth the sticker price.
Even if you haven’t seen the first film or weren’t a huge fan of it, this sequel improves on [●REC]
and works almost as well as a stand-alone film as it does a continuation of the first. With fantastic audio and video and a healthy selection of features that help appreciate the craft that went into making the film, this release should become a permanent part of your video library. Whether that happens now or later is your call.
Movie - B+
Image Quality - A
Sound - A
Supplements - B
- Running time - 1 hour and 24 minutes
- Rated R
- 1 Disc
- Chapter Stops
- Spanish 5.1
- English subtitles
- English SDH subtitles
- Deleted Scenes
- Behind the Scenes Featurettes
- A Walkthrough of the Set
- Rec 2 on Tour
- Stiges Film Festival Press Conference