Jonathan Mellor as Dr. Owen
Manuela Velasco as Ãngela Vidal
Pablo Rosso as Rosso
Ferran Terraza as Manu
Javier Botet as NiÃ±a Medeiros
Claudia Font as Jennifer
Nico Baixas as NiÃ±a Medeiros
Ariel Casas as Larra
David Vert as Ãlex
Directed by Jaume BalaguerÃ³ & Paco Plaza
That saying about how difficult it is to catch lightning in a bottle twice? It doesn’t apply to directors Jaume BalaguerÃ³ and Paco Plaza one stinkin’ bit. The Spanish duo are back to electrify you with Rec 2, the sequel to their 2007 hit Rec. Probing the zombie subgenre once again to mine new frights, this sequel is an inspired one that just falls short of rivaling Rec yet further explores the religious thematic threads that film set up for harrowing impact. So, you can expect a dash of Lamberto Bava’s Demons and a sprinkle of The Exorcist which takes our perception of the undead in bold new directions.
With Manu Diaz completing the writing triumvirate (BalaguerÃ³ and Plaza co-wrote) this time, taking over for Rec‘s Luis Berdejo, Rec 2 takes its cue from some ’80s sequels and opens with the final, fierce moments of Rec showing the demise of reporter Angela Vidal in night creep-o-vision. The narrative then picks up minutes later introducing us to a new camera man, Rosso, a member of a SWAT team whose orders are to enter the quarantined tenement – where an infection has broken out causing its inhabitants to act aggressively. The heavily-armed bunch is to guide a Dr. Owen into the madness until his mission is complete.
BalaguerÃ³ and Plaza approach the SWAT team’s scenario with the gravity and there’s a palpable calm before the storm vibe as they approach their location – a scene teeming with confused officials, manic neighbors, curious press and those who have loved ones inside the building. Once inside Rec 2 plays much like how many wished the Doom feature film had been. You’re essentially front row and center watching a first person shooter play out as SWAT members creep along oppressively dark hallways, the point of view bouncing from Rosso’s camera to various helmet cams. The rampant, go-for-the-throat pacing – an adrenaline shot to your senses – that commences as the infected residents come out to play and are mowed down by gunfire is broken up by pivotal moments in Dr. Owen’s quest to find a blood sample of the one who started it all: NiÃ±a Medeiros.
You see, Owen clearly knows more than he lets on, and he’s not just a doctor. And those running around like zombies hopped up on acid? They’re actually possessed. The revelation isn’t all too surprising given the clues provided in Rec, however, you love BalaguerÃ³, Plaza and Diaz all the more for following through with this fusion of zombie lore, religion and science. Jonathan Mellor has a terrific face for Owen; one that’s literally scarred, somber and steely-eyed. This is a man who has met evil before and in this building evil is closing in on him from all sides. As the tension and frustration in his journey mounts with attacks from raging, bloody children and old women, BalaguerÃ³ and Plaza literally pull the rug out from under you during a moment of heightened energy.
And Rec 2 restarts itself with a new story thread.
A teen angle is the last thing anyone wants to see in a mature, hardened narrative like the one the Rec films present, but the directors call upon it halfway through the film for arguable results. The break, which finds three kids with a camera sneaking into the building (following a fireman and husband looking for his wife), offers the viewer some time to catch their breath, yet their dynamic (a sister, her brother and a friend) grows tiresome. Thankfully, the script makes swift work of this trio’s adventure and their story is fused with the SWAT team/Owen arc. There is a certain ruthless nature to which the tater tot teens are treated as if BalaguerÃ³ and Plaza know their audience will want to see them taken out horribly. And, oh boy, do we.
Rec 2 juggles a fresh approach while placating those who are looking for the same unyielding attitude of the first film. It’ll certainly jolt those Xbox controller-hugging Left 4 Dead/Dead Rising junkies whose knees get weak and jeans get moist at the sight of a zombie’s head popping at the end of an assault rifle’s red hot barrel. There are some great surprises, and while the story threatens to buckle at the weight of the film’s ideas (paving the way for a part three), Rec 2 stands strong as solid sequel. It’s an ideal companion to Rec much like 28 Weeks Later complimented 28 Days Later.