Fantasia 2010: [REC]2 Review

[Still touring the festival circuit, [REC]2 is going to give the great sound system at the Hall Theatre a work out.  Here is Todd's take from TIFF to remind you how solid the film is.]

Is Spanish horror flick [REC]2 the out and out masterpiece that fans of the original were hoping for?  Not quite, no, a complete disinterest in any sort of character development somewhat limiting the film's ultimate success.  But that said, directors Paco Plaza and Jaume Balaguero have done what very few before them have managed:  They've returned to the world that they created, significantly expanded on the mythology of their original creation in ways that surprise and shock while still remaining totally true to the spirit of the original, and they've done it all while kicking ass.  Lots of ass.

[REC]2 picks up roughly fifteen minutes after the end of the first film, the tenemant building that was the scene of what appeared to be a zombie outbreak now completely sealed off, a heavily armed SWAT team being sent in to accompany and protect a doctor as he tries to collect samples and information vital to determine what happened and how to prevent its spread.  Things go wrong, of course.  Very wrong.

The great success of the original [REC] lay in how effectively it built tension, ramping up mood and tone and sympathy for its characters before completely pulling the rug out from under them in a string of horrifying and unexpected attacks.  But that approach can only really work once - when you know it's coming, you just want to get there - and thankfully Plaza and Balaguero are fully aware of this fact.  There is no slow build or spread of infection here - this film is about armed men walking in to a confined space already well populated with the infection and things are going to get ugly.  The action starts early, it is intense, and it carries on throughout.

There has been speculation leading in to this film that [REC]2 would have the same relationship to the original film that Aliens has with Alien.  This speculation is correct.  Though very definitely set in the same world as the original, this picture functions in many ways according the rules of a completely different genre.  The first was about fear, legitimate fear of what was happening.  This one is far more about adrenaline, about the rush of the creators feeding you more of what you already expect while then turning some unexpected corners to keep things fresh.

On the expectation side they first find a completely plausible method of maintaining the first person perspective so integral to the original, a perspective that they employ with ruthless efficiency to keep the audience at the edge of their seats, seats they'll jump out of often as creatures come hurtling out of the dark.  They also deliver the vicious kill sequences that fans demand.  On the fresh elements side, without giving too much away, people will no longer be referring to the [REC] pictures purely as zombie films once they come to the end of this.

The great weakness of [REC]2 is that, thanks to the immediate jump into action, there really are no memorable characters, nobody to really connect or empathize with.  The SWAT squad is largely interchangeable and that anonymity limits the effectiveness of the terror.  If you can't connect with people, you feel no urgency on their behalf.  As it stands the film is already an effective adrenaline rush but with a bit more time to let the characters grow and engage that adrenaline could have been bolstered with some genuine emotion.
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