In 2007, writer-directors Jaume Balaguero and Paco Plaza created [REC], a truly frightening horror film. Considering their subject matter is so familiar to audiences it proved a major challenge not to fall into clichés. Somehow, against all odds, [REC] remained fresh by blending the elements so well… nasty contagion and fast zombies ala 28 Days Later captured in documentary-syle videography made famous by The Blair Witch Project. Add likable lead characters, natural dialog, horrific gore and scream-at-the-screen suspense; sprinkle in clues of a disturbing spiritual origin to the mysterious virus and you end up with one of the scariest and most effective additions to both the zombie and “found footage” horror sub-genres.
To appreciate the sequel, [REC]2, one should take the time to watch the first film, but if you haven’t, here is a brief spoiler filled synopsis of [REC]. A local Spanish TV journalist and her cameraman are embedded with a group of firefighters for the night as part of a human interest segment on their magazine news show. A routine call to an old apartment building on the outskirts of Madrid immediately leads to the team being sealed inside by a government quarantine trying to contain the origin of a ferocious viral pandemic. The news team chronicles the firefighters’ efforts to battle the frenzied, ravenous infected and escape the building, avoiding viral contamination or getting shot by government snipers.
The film was remade into an Americanized, English language version renamed Quarantine, but in spite of almost being a shot-for-shot remake, it failed to retain the effectiveness of the original. Watch [REC] instead.
[REC]2 picks up minutes after the end of the first film. This time, our video point of view comes from a SWAT team’s helmet-mounted cameras as they escort a doctor on a secret mission from the Ministry of Health into the quarantined building. Later we get the camcorder images of some idiot thrill seekers who sneak in the building to see what all the commotion is about. [REC]2 moves much faster than its predecessor, much like Aliens to the original Alien. It wasn’t as scary as the first film, but definitely more tense. There are some very inventive twists and turns. They build upon the virus origin mythos wonderfully. It should come as no surprise the ending totally sets up an inevitable [REC]3 to complete the trilogy.
There are some missteps in the film. If you have armed men and are willing to shoot anyone trying to escape the building, why would they hold back from shooting the infected? I get that these are regular people, victims of the virus, but do you really need to wait for the mutilated, growling creature to spit blood in your face before you start blasting away? The forced drama of the tactical team arguing about killing innocents is a bit ludicrous, but the thrill seekers bitching and moaning about the situation they only got themselves into is worse. The greatest flaw of this sequel is the lack of well-rounded characters found in the first film.
The transfer on this disc is about as good as DVD can deliver. Unfortunately, [REC] and [REC]2 are only available on DVD and not on Blu-Ray in Region 1, even though they both have BD releases in other regions. It’s presented in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio.
The Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital track is effectively immersive and really helps set up the scares. However, the SFX are mixed a little heavy against the dialog, which didn’t really affect me as I don’t speak Spanish and just read the subtitles.
Deleted and Extended Scenes (6:49) Scenes understandably cut for better timing and increased tension. They offer more bitching from the completely extraneous younger characters, share a few more moments of soldier anxiety and offer a feeding scene with one of the infected.
Behind the Scenes (53:28) Interviews with key cast and crew members elaborate on the planning and execution of the film. Extensive “fly on the wall” documentation contains footage covering the minutiae of moviemaking and analyzes the creative process.
A Walkthrough of the Set (8:51) Art director Gemma Fauria tours the set construction of the most important “character” of the two films, this claustrophobic madness of an apartment building she created in all its stained and filthy glory.
Stiges Film Festival Press Conference (10:59) Offers some more insight from the directors and assorted production members.
On Tour (8:40) Travel with the production team as they travel to the Venice and Stiges Film Festivals, as well as a preview screening in France.
A Theatrical Trailer has not been included.
All in all, I found [REC]2 an enjoyable and fast-moving horror sequel. Things are sufficiently amped up, including both gore and action. The characterizations suffer this time around, but the story steps up to the challenge, and you find yourself caught up in the outcome. The art direction is amazing and demands to be seen in a Region 1 BD release. I look forward to seeing more of Jaume Balaguero and Paco Plaza’s work in the near future.