Some of the best and most original horror films in recent history have come from outside the Hollywood vortex that dominates the industry. In 2007, the Spanish film [REC] brought a somewhat original take on the zombie genre and in 2008 that was translated to English in the form of Quarantine, now in 2010 the story of the quarantined apartment building continues with [REC] 2 and it should probably be said that its existence is entirely unnecessary. [REC] had a complete story arc and ultimately ended near perfectly with reporter Angela Vidal (Manuela Velasco) being dragged off into the darkness by the creature that started the outbreak. There were questions left to be answered but for me I felt that answering them enhanced the film in many ways. But it seems directors Jaume Balaguero and Manu Diez felt otherwise.
[REC] 2 picks up roughly an hour after the events of the first film, this time focusing on a group of SWAT team members escorting a scientist into the quarantined apartment to search for “something”. One of [REC]‘s strong points was that its simple story allowed the viewer to focus on the terror at hand while working things out for themselves. [REC] 2 decides to go an opposite route, answering many asked and unasked questions and through some convoluted storytelling that ties into the last third of the original movie, [REC] 2 begins to reveal things that really stretch the bounds of belief.
When watching a horror film I am willing to pretty much let go of reality as long as the story remains consistent throughout and can maintain a constant application of tension. [REC] 2 is inconsistent from the get go and it tries to give so much narrative information in its small frame that it becomes hard to focus on what is actually going on with the characters on screen.
Its problems don’t cease with its odd narrative direction though. [REC] had a focus in its storytelling, working from one perspective, that of Angela’s camera crew. Like it does with its storytelling, [REC] 2 takes the approach that more is better and instead of just focusing on the SWAT team, we also get secondary and tertiary teams of characters that dilute the overall product. With just 85 minutes to tell its story in [REC] 2 attempts to cram too many characters into the pot and it certainly doesn’t help that none of the characters portrayed have the charismatic appeal that Manuela Verlasco did as Angela.
Speaking of Angela, she appears in the opening scene of [REC] 2 and then features prominently in the final third. While I genuinely enjoy Verlasco in that role, the character’s appearance late in the game telegraphs the ending so blatantly that it sucks the little remaining tension out of the film. And a horror film without any tension is a failed film on any scale.
The decision to go back to the apartment of [REC] for its sequel probably felt like a no brainer at the time but it is tragically the decision that derailed the film the most. The more is better approach certainly did not help matters but it was the continuation of the original story, moving it into more outlandish directions that hurt [REC] 2 the most. It is a shame that it worked out this way because the original [REC] did a lot of really cool things with the way it presented itself and I think if the directors had evolved off of the original in different ways [REC] 2 could have been something horror fans could latch onto. But in the end [REC] 2 is just a sloppy Spanish horror film that fails to push itself forward and sadly takes a few steps back, producing less scares along the way.
2 out of 5