Making a sequel isn’t easy. You basically have two options. Try to continue the story, or just recycle the same elements from the first one but just crank up the volume. The latter is not preferable (Speed II: Cruise Control, Escape from L.A., Tyler Perry’s: Why Did I Get Married Too?) We’ve seen too many wonderful franchises fall victim to the Hollywood hype. Usually you lose a director or a lead actor. Maybe both. The budget usually goes up but the quality goes down. Otherwise, you can just continue on with the story. It’s tempting to try and retrofit a new plotline onto the original film. I generally don’t advise this. But Jaume Balagueró and Paco Plaza get it right in [Rec] 2, their 2009 follow-up to [Rec]. It’s another found footage (ugh) zombie flick but it expands on the religious explanation for the zombie outbreak that was just touched on in the first one.
In general, I liked the way this movie was done, but I do want to say that I don’t think the first movie needed a sequel. Yeah it left you with a lot of questions, but was scarier that way. [Rec] 2 feels like it is a part of the first movie. It takes place right where the other movie ends, and we even get to see some of the characters from the first that (we thought) were dead.
The opening scene of this movie is actually the final scene of the original. Then it cuts to a new crew. The premise of this one is that a swat team and a medical examiner are entering the quarantined building from the first movie to assess/contain the outbreak. SWAT guys has a camera on his helmet and they periodically call these cameras up to show what each guy is seeing. So they go through the apartment building and we see blood, body parts on the floor where people got killed in the first one but there’s nobody there. They hear noises upstairs so they work their way up through the floors to the penthouse where the first movie ended. Once we’re up there, we find out that the medical examiner knows more than he’s letting on and he’s got some other objectives besides saving civilians.
We learn that the virus that broke out in the apartment was actually engineered (in this apartment building) and somehow makes the host susceptible to possession by a demon. This demon is what makes people turn crazy and start eating each other. The medical examiner actually turns out to be a priest who is looking for a blood sample from the original possessed/infected girl so an antidote can be synthesized. We met this “girl” in the first movie and the meeting was..well, unpleasant. The squad finds a blood sample but it bursts into flames when the priest does a test on it (remember the blood scene in The Thing). Now they have to track down the actual girl and draw some of her blood. Needless to say that proves more difficult than it sounds. The team runs into several more zombies and a group of kids who snuck in to the building. Things get messy.
Overall, this movie does a good job of maintaining what we loved about the original while adding enough to make it interesting and keep us guessing. The claustrophobic feeling you get from the long, cramped hallways is still there. Everything is dark and lit by flashlights, helicopter spot lights, or night vision. It’s hard to see what’s right in front of you. It really pulls you in and makes you feel like you’re in the room with these people and these monsters. I usually don’t like when they recycle the same shots in a sequel, but there are some more incredible night vision shots in this one too. So crazy suspenseful and scary.
As for the “found footage” thing. I’m getting a little tired of it. The whole documentary/mockumentory/cockumentory (ok I made that last one up- but if you were going to make a documentary about porn or well, dicks I guess, it would be perfect) film style is gimmicky and, in my opinion, a little bit of a cop out. I’m all for innovation and trying new things with filmmaking, but let’s move on. I get that it’s supposed to draw the viewer in and give the movie a more authentic feel, but why can’t you do that with the writing and the acting? Don’t get me wrong, Balagueró and Plaza do a good job with this one and I don’t feel that they used the style as a crutch. In fact they played with it a bit. The brought in 2 other characters with cameras as well as cycling through several SWAT helmet –mounted cameras. That helped break up the POV and let us meet the characters behind the cameras a bit. This was a nice touch.
Overall, this was a slick modern zombie movie. I like how they bridged the gap from the first film to the sequel. There’s a third installment out and it’s got the same directors. That’s a good sigh. I’m looking forward to getting my hands on it. I’ll be posting a review as soon as I see it.
- Is it scary: 7- Dark, claustrophobic, and creepy. The atmosphere is perfect and to boot there are nasty fast zombies around every turn.
- Originality: 5- Nice addition to the story of the first movie. I like that the explanation of where the zombies came from. It was plausible but not too specific to draw extra attention to it.
- Blood: 7- Pretty damn bloody. Not over the top, but just what you’d expect from this one.
- Believability: 6–There were a few scenes where I was practically yelling at the screen. “Shoot him. SHOOT HIM!” These SWAT guys were a little too reserved with their ammo. There’s a certain point where you’d shoot just about anybody snarling and hissing blood and charging at you in a dead sprint. And yet, they didn’t, and now they’re dead.
- Setting/Cinematography: 6- Like I said, setting: great. Creepy, cramped and scary. Found footage cinematography: ehh. Balagueró and Plaza handled it as well as anyone, but still minus 1 point. Too gimmicky.
Final Score: 31/50