HorrorFest 2009: 'REC 2' expands the world, ups the creepy
Excellent genre sequel plays rough but rewarding games with audience
The first "[REC]" was a profoundly unsettling horror experience, remade a year later by the Dowdle Brothers as "Quarantine." It's part of the recent trend of movies that are ersatz documentaries, with a cameraman playing an actual character, and it's one of the best of the bunch. Jaume Balaguero and Paco Plaza were smart about suggesting things without spelling them out. The possibilities in the film were just as scary as the things that actually occurred.
Now, "[REC] 2" has arrived, playing at both Toronto's Midnight Madness and here at Fantastic Fest, and it is absolutely a worthwhile and ambitious sequel that expands the ideas of the first film. I don't know if I'd go so far as to say it's "Aliens" to the first film's "Alien," but this is an interesting change in direction that genuinely surprised me. In order to explain, I'll have to get into spoilers a bit, but I'll wait till after the jump, so you can just read the short version of the review if you want.
I'll just say that the conceit this time is that we follow three different cameramen through three situations that entertwine, so there's more room for them to show us different things going on at the same time. It's a great creative choice, and the production design this time is even stronger, as is the cinematography. Everything's been turned up a bit, but the result is, oddly, that the film is less scary than the first one. This time, it's more like a movie, and as a result, it's a little safe. It's not bad, it's just muted in some ways. Once the film reaches the third act, it starts to really hit on all cylinders again, and there are some really amazing images and ideas in that stretch of the film. If you liked the first one, you'll absolutely like the second one, and hopefully there will be an opportunity for American audiences to see this one theatrically soon.
[spoilers after the jump]
Okay... now to discuss (quickly) the major choice they made with this second film. The movie answers some of the first film's questions conclusively with "demonic possession" being the answer that surprised me. As a result, there are moments that suggest "Exorcist III," the original Friedkin film, and even some of the Italian demonic possession movies. There are some visual magic tricks involving a mysterious well that I found remarkable as well. I think the last group of people introduced, three kids who sneak into the building for no good reason, are the weakest, and they drag the movie down a lot, but it recovers so strongly that it's a forgiveable sin.
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