Warning: The following review contains some SPOILERS about the first [REC] and some mild ones about [REC] 2.
Those of you lucky enough to have seen the Spanish language horror film [REC] will hopefully agree that it was one of the scariest and most effective films of its type in years (for me it goes on a list of "all time best"). It took a well-trodden sub-genre of horror - the zombie film - and injected fresh life into it.
And I can't remember any other time I was as freaked out in a theater as I was watching that film.
With the way the first film ended it was really no surprise that there was going to be a [REC] 2. The thing that makes the idea of a sequel OK is that the original filmmakers - namely writers and directors Jaume Balagueró and Paco Plaza - returned to frighten us once more.
So does the sequel succeed? Well in its goal to scare you, absolutely, but I have to admit it's not as effective as the original movie.
[REC] 2 picks up literally 15 minutes after the end of the previous film, with a SWAT team being sent in to the apartment building to find out what happened when the virus first broke out (which we saw in the first movie). This gives the story a real sense of immediacy - a lot of sequels will jump forward in time and find a way to revisit the events of the first film in some sort of convoluted way (The Descent: Part 2, anyone?) but here we get to revisit the fear straight away.
One of the nifty new additions to [REC] 2 is the way we are allowed to see the events from several different perspectives. At first we follow the SWAT team who conveniently enough have cameras on their helmets to record the evidence (a clever touch), then we change to the perspective of a group of kids who were causing trouble and managed to find themselves trapped in the building (they also have a camera). Third... let's just say we change cameras again but I won't spoil where it comes from and whose camera it is (if you've seen the first film you can probably guess what I'm hinting at there).
The strengths of [REC] 2 lie in the same areas as the first one - the building of atmosphere and the expertly judged jump-scares. A lot of horror films will just have jump-scares (seemingly) randomly placed throughout the movie and think that a loud noise counts as a good scare. But the director of [REC] and its sequel realize you need to time it well - and here there was at least five times I jumped out of my seat.
Admittedly this sequel doesn't live up to the original in terms of pure scares, but that may be because I'm used to the style and was more ready for whenever something jumped out. But the biggest thing the first one has over the sequel is the fact we spend time with the main characters before they go into the building, growing to care about what happens to them, if only for a little while. But the sequel dives straight into the action and although this may mean less waiting around, it does make the characters harder to care about as people - and they feel more like just fodder for the zombies.
Probably the biggest flaw of [REC] 2 was that it had too many scenes that attempt to explain just what the mysterious virus is. Although a sequel is ripe territory to give us more information about what is going on, there were a few too many scenes of characters standing around shouting at the expert who has been sent in with the SWAT team, demanding to know what the virus is. I just felt like more could have been left up to the viewer to figure out, as the first one did.
Not to give anything away, but the film definitely sets things up for the sequel(s) to come. [REC] 3 and 4 are already in the works and you'll be glad to know it's not just for the sake of it - there really is a lot more juice left in the tank.
Like its predecessor, [REC] 2 is definitely not for the fainthearted or the squeamish. If its possible this one is even gorier, with more up-close-and-personal views of the blood-spewing infected and splattered heads. However, if you have the stomach for that sort of thing and are a fan of fast-paced and frantic horror films then you should have a blast with this one.
If you're in the US where [REC] 2 has still yet to be released and need more convincing to see it, then check out the latest red-band trailer (Warning: The trailer does give away quite a lot so if you want to stay in the dark, so to speak, then you may want to not watch it):
You can catch [REC] 2 in US theaters on July 9th, 2010 or on video-on-demand on June 4th. For folks in the UK the film is already in theaters.
Trailer source: MySpace