July 13, 2011

DVD Review: [REC]2

[Rec] 2In 2008 the film [REC] was unleashed upon the world. It was hailed as a high water mark for horror cinema and a shining light of the burgeoning found footage style movie. The movie was praised for its intensity, scares, blood, and originality. To this day I have not seen it. Yes, you read that right. However, I have seen Quarantine. I know some of you are rolling your eyes, but I loved Quarantine and from what I have read and clips I have seen, the two movies are virtually identical right down to the conclusion. That is what helps make this a universal sequel, you can watch either initial film and jump right into this one without missing a beat (plus there is a Quarantine sequel coming which takes its own direction).

[REC]2 takes place within minutes of the conclusion of the first movie. The building is still covered in plastic, they are maintaining the quarantine, and Angela was, indeed, dragged into the darkness. Now, you may be asking yourself "How can they top the scares of the first movie?" Well, to put it bluntly, they don't. More accurately, they don't try to top the first movie. The original creative team of Paco Plaza and Jaume Balaguer√≥ have returned with Manu Diez to expand on the [REC] universe and take it in some new directions while still offering up a solid share of scares. It does not try to top the fright level, but the scares are there and there is an increased level of action.

As the film opens, we revisit Angela's taking from the first film and are then thrown into a van where we are introduced to a SWAT team who are accompanying a doctor into the building. Of course, they are not given the whole story before getting inside. Once inside they learn the doctor is after a blood sample from the original infected girl. Before long they are encountering infected zombies, freaking out, and getting themselves in deeper.

The story keeps the found footage feel by having the team roam about with cameras mounted on their helmets. It gives the feeling of being in a first person shooter video game, while still feeling cinematic. It is not an easy task, as anyone who has watched a friend play Halo knows, watching someone play a game is not all that fun.

The game is taken a step further as we get the story from two angles, even seeing some of the same events from two perspectives. You see, not only has SWAT entered the building, but a group of kids looking to get into a little trouble have managed to get inside and they come bearing their own camera. This adds to the fun of the movie, adds more scared people to the mix and breaks up the time spent with SWAT.

Now, I do not want to give the story away because I found it to be quite an interesting direction to take. Where the first movie was essentially an infected people in a bottle sort, this one keeps the bottle but changes up the source of the infection. It is a direction I was not expecting but welcomed with open arms.

[REC]2 delivers the goods. Is it perfect? No, but I found flaws easy to gloss over as I was enjoying it too much. There is some nice blood, crazy action, and a story that adds a whole new dimension. Where the movie is lacking is in character development. Frankly, there is none. I did not really care about any of the characters enough to become invested in whether they lived or died. Still, the surrounding material had more than enough to keep me invested in the movie as a whole.

This is a sequel that delivers. It is dripping with atmosphere, tension around every turn, and delivers what is wanted, something that is a lot like the original but with its own charms that separate it from the pack.

Audio/Video. The movie is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and looks quite good. It is a hard one to judge as it is not shot like your standard feature film. This is a low-fi production meant to have that camcorder aesthetic. The black levels are good, there is evident grain, as you would expect, and the lighting is largely naturalistic. I could not find anything to complain about, the low light and shadows add to the atmosphere.

The Dolby Digital 5.1, in the original Spanish, is a good one that uses the full range nicely. It was a touch disconcerting at first, but is quickly adapted too and seems to be more unnoticeable once the action starts kicking up, but initially the cameraman's voice comes from the rear, naturally behind the camera. There is also nice use of the whole field with the shuffling of feet and bodies as the action picks up. It all comes across as pretty solid and is definitely directional with relation to the recording camera and their distance from it.

  • Deleted and Extended Scenes. Nearly seven minutes of these scenes are here. Nothing particularly special here.
  • Behind the Scenes Featurettes. These run more than 50-minutes and go into a number of aspects of the film with plenty of footage from the set.
  • A Walk through of the Set. Running almost 9-minutes, this takes us onto the set and features interview footage of reinventing the building.
  • Sitges Film Festival Press Conference. A panel discussion about the film with cast and crew.
  • [REC]2 on Tour. A collection of clips of the film at various festivals.
Bottomline. This is a solid follow up to an original horror film. I understand that I have not seen it, but I feel like I have with Quarantine (and yes, I promise to see the original). This one has tension, action, and blood and an interesting story to boot. I would have liked stronger character development, but I am all right with it.

Highly Recommended.

Article first published as DVD Review: [REC]2 on Blogcritics.

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