After watching [REC]2, I feel as if I should look at its predecessor, [REC], in a different way. Maybe the main character, Ángela (Manuela Velasco), wasn’t that annoying after all. After the second storyline of this film, I’m inclined to think I was too hard on her character. This one introduces us to three teenagers mid-way through, and all of them are far more annoying than she ever was.
We don’t start with them, however. Instead, we follow four SWAT-like soldiers and one Ministry of Health member as they enter the building that was quarantined off in the first film. If you haven’t seen that film, you just might want to do so. In it, Ángela and some firemen went to investigate a disturbance in this building, it ended up being sealed off, and a virus started spreading from person to person, eventually killing pretty much everyone, turning them into hungry man-eaters.
So, the logical course of action is to have four soldiers and a health official go into the building, only one of whom actually has any idea as to what’s going on. Three of the men act as bodyguards for the official, while the final one is a cameraman. [REC]‘s main hook was the shakycam style of filming, so that’s retained here. Thankfully, this soldier has a steadier hand than the professional cameraman of the first film (for whatever reason), so we’re not getting a queasy from watching the film. All of the other soldiers also have cameras mounted on the side of their helmet, so that when they wander off alone, we can cut to their perspective.
It takes a few minutes for the soldiers to learn what’s really going on, but after the health official says a prayer and stops one of the infected dead in its tracks, it’s time for some answers. It turns out, he’s actually a priest, and is here to collect the blood of the original “infected,” the Medeiros girl. Turns out, demonic possession and a virus are like the same thing, and that all of the “infected” are actually just puppets for the Medeiros girl. Or something like that, anyway — they mostly just seem interested in tearing flesh from bone from anyone that moves.
And then, for absolutely no reason, we cut away from the soldiers and priest in order to focus on three of the most annoying characters in movie history. They’re teenagers, and after being evacuated from their building, they decide to sneak into the one that’s being actively quarantined. They are also filming, as they hope to make money off the video. The incredibly shaky camerawork returns with these people, as does hysterical and annoying dialogue. I can’t even begin to describe how mad these characters made me, but let’s just say that once their portion of the story was over (they eventually encounter the soldiers and we switch back to the army men’s perspective), I was ready to throw a small party of one.
Ostensibly, this is a film focusing on a small group wandering around a creepy building where possessed beings can jump out at you at any moment. It’s the same basic premise as the first one, except the people this time around are better prepared; at least they have guns this time around. There’s also far less set-up, which was beneficial. We don’t break right after getting an intense scene for a few random interviews of people who we know will be dead within a few minutes, for example.
I guess what I’m saying is that the pacing is much better, as are the scares. These people don’t act hysterical and uncooperative — they know how to handle themselves — and when they get spooked or killed, it’s shocking to us because, hey, they’re soldiers. There isn’t one single memorable moment like that terrifyingly effective jump scare in the first [REC], but there are more scares all around, and the stakes feel fairly high for a claustrophobic spook-house film.
Once again, the film gets buried underneath explanation. It’s better laid out this time around, scattered throughout instead of being thrown at us all at the end, but I’d rather not know why these things are after us. They’re scarier that way. The priest being able to basically contain them also stops them from being incredibly frightening, but the soldiers make up for that by separating from the group for reasons I can’t even begin to comprehend.
Fans of [REC] will have to keep a keen eye out for a bunch of cameos from the characters in the first film. While I’m not sure if they’re all played by the same actors, a large chunk of the characters from before return here — just not as “normal” humans. There are also a couple of big surprises in the plot regarding one returning cast member. The first one made me reminiscent, while the second made me want to barf. But both were effective.
[REC]2 is a pretty good follow-up to an okay found footage horror film. The pacing is better even if the characters are worse, the scares are more plentiful even if it lacked that one memorable moment, and I found myself having a good time despite the copious amounts of explanation that we have to suffer through every time the characters stop to catch their breath. It works, and it actually made me reflect positively on its predecessor. I appreciated [REC] more after watching this, and not even because this was terrible and made [REC] look good by comparison.