Tuesday, October 30, 2012

[Rec] 2 (2009)

Warning: this review contains spoilers.

I rewatched [Rec] in anticipation of viewing the sequel, and I was reminded of just how good that movie is. It's terrifying, intelligent, and really action-packed - I was surprised it clocks in at under an hour and a half because it doesn't feel that short. But I guess time slows down when you're trapped in a horrific situation and you just can't get out.

So then I watched the sequel, and I have to say, [Rec] is just so brilliant that it's impossible not to be interested in its sequel when the setup of the first movie is as brilliant as it is. But, standing on its own, the quality of [Rec] 2 drops considerably from the first movie. It's terrifying enough, sure, and there is a lot of action - maybe even more than in the first one. But as a movie, it's just not as intelligent.

I mean, it's like they grabbed the script from a fanfic site. The elements in this movie are "cool", but the premise takes a huge drop in believability. I mean, one of the smartest parts of the first [Rec] was the explanation for the disease - that it was a contagious variation of the condition known among the superstitious as demonic possession, created by accident while trying to find an antidote for the disease.

The brilliance there is that the film is still rooted in reality - and actually provides a compelling and original scientific explanation for demonic possession. In [Rec] 2, which picks up immediately after the events of [Rec], instead of a health advisor, they send a priest in to the quarantined building (albeit disguised as a health advisor). Now, yeah, that's a really cool premise - priest goes in to kick some demonic ass with his magic prayers and crucifixes - but it's a fantasy premise. The moment he sticks that crucifix on the door and the infected trapped inside backs off ("singlehandedly proving Christianity", as an IMDb user puts it), the story loses its plausibility.

Not to say that the filmmakers are wrong for taking the story in this direction - who's to say that there was much more of a story to tell while keeping it pinned to reality - but the result is a much less unique and standout film. Actually, it feels a lot more like a video game (especially with the SWAT team's FPS-like perspective), which even the first [Rec] was obviously inspired by, but this one seems to draw too heavily on.

And there are other problems with it, as well. The characters are less likable, and one thing I've discovered is that, realistic or not (and I couldn't say which is more likely), people freaking out completely and yelling at each other isn't a whole lot of fun to watch in a movie. Yeah, it creates good tension in a heightened moment, but if they just keep going at it constantly, it wears you down, and you start wanting to tell them to just shut the fuck up, cool down, and stop shouting.

And then you have these stupid kids which are a total brainless cliche - hell, I'll admit the idea of what goes on in [Rec] is fascinating, but what kind of an idiot would I have to be to walk through the sewers to sneak in to a building under government quarantine? And then of course they change their minds and start crying only after it's too late.

The girl was actually smart, and knew it was a bad idea - I think they put her in so the audience could sympathize - but when she was about to walk away, not giving in to peer pressure, suddenly the camera skips ahead and she's following them through the sewers. Yeah, I don't know what to say, but that just totally smacks of the writers going, "I don't know how the fuck we're going to get this character to follow these guys so let's just skip over that part and force it to happen..."

[Rec] 2 also opens up the story a little bit by featuring more than one camera. I thought that was interesting, and provided some variety to the story (and helped to introduce new characters and new angles), although I think the one-camera perspective of [Rec] definitely works in its favor. Of course, after the first camera dies, when the second is just about to run out of batteries, and there, camgirl from the first [Rec] shows up out of nowhere, holding on to her camera like some holy grail - it just felt so incredibly fabricated, it's one of those details that really detracts from the realism.

Like the infected victims this time around. Again, it's actually cool that they behave more like demonic possessees as we know them, but again it detracts from their realism. Another of the things I really liked about [Rec] was how realistically the 'monsters' were treated - almost like you could believe they were just humans possessed of a hysterical aggression. Here, they're crawling on the ceiling and spitting in priests' faces.

And do I even need to mention the ridiculous 'magic' that changes the structure of physical reality depending on whether light is shining on it or not? Or how a person literally wasted away to skin and bones could wield a hammer? Or how the frightened reporter from the first movie becomes an action hero in this one? Or this movie's explanation for that change, which involves a giant worm passed orally, which apparently is the source of demonic possession, with telekinetic powers to influence other bodies infected by the virus (why is the virus even necessary if the demon has supernatural powers)? And oh god, the rocket attack...

No, no, I'll leave all of that stuff alone...

1 comment:

  1. Well naturally I'd rather if you had absolutely loved REC 2 (for your sake), but I'm also kind of glad you share my feelings about it, particularly because REC 2 has been very well-recieved and I sometimes feel left out of that hoopla. Not much for me to say on that issue as you articulated it very well already.

    Scream 4 makes a rudimentary assertion that I suspect might sum up the goals of [REC]'s co-creator Paco Plaza. "The unexpected is the new cliche'." I think his desire has been more to circumvent our expectations than to create a great film series. The fact that [REC] 1 was a piece of incomparable brilliance may have been a fluke. For the record I've also watched his film Romasanta, it's a solid film and Plaza is an excellent director. But what they chose to do with [REC]... it just feels like they had absolutely no intention of continuing the legacy of the first. This is especially true once you get to [REC] 3, which Plaza directed by himself. His co-creator will be handling #4 so this should be interesting to see how much 'the old switcheroo' came from Plaza alone or if they both feel it's necessary to frusturate us [REC] fans.

    Still, [REC] 2 has some of the basics down. Sequels are hard... Just wait 'till you get to [REC] 3. [REC] 2 will seem freaking amazing. :P