REVIEW: [REC] 2 Just Another Visit to the Horror-Franchise Ghetto
[REC] 2 relies almost entirely on its tunnel-vision, single-player style for its scares. It's a strategy that stalls out halfway through, which means it works for twice as long as it should. Picking up where the 2007 sleeper hit [REC] left off, this Spanish horror trip sets up its premise while efficiently establishing its style: A SWAT team is suiting up and turning on its helmet cams (we're given one soldier's perspective, though other cameras are occasionally patched in) in order to escort a health inspector (Jonathan Mellor) into a quarantined building. No one is quite sure what the disease is or how it manifests itself, but it's killing the people inside. [REC] 2 executes its one big twist almost immediately; the series of aftershock-like twists in its wake occur with descending intensity. The last one wouldn't rattle a teacup.
Viewers of [REC] will be unsurprised by the initial twist, as it is revealed in the first film that (spoiler alert?) the infection sweeping the building is actually a form of transmissible demonic possession. We barely meet the SWAT team before they're hidden behind haz-mat suits, and their dialogue -- which consists mainly of the men growling at and demanding answers from one another -- is as interchangeable as they are. Dr. Owen, the health inspector, has patrician cheekbones and blue eyes that ice over in the flashlight's glare; the men soon learn that the good doctor is actually a priest, but not before one of them is lost to one of the possessed beasties who come springing, lunging and bombing at the crew from various corners of the darkened tenement building.
Dr. Owen reveals the mission as one of recovery: He needs the blood of the ostensible patient zero, a little girl who was brought to the building to be exorcised, or cured. Rather free with their splicing of films like The Exorcist and The Omen, along with bio-horror like 28 Days Later, writers and co-directors Jaume Balagueró and Paco Plaza might have sampled a little more substance to go with the setup and style. There is no real logic or interest added to their conception of demonic possession; turning it into a virus mutes all of its metaphoric import, which means the copious deaths -- even of characters we have met -- register merely as variations on a pointy-toothed theme. An anarchic intensity might have supplemented the lack of narrative or character interest, but the filmmaking is not up to that task either.
About 40 minutes in, the film -- which has proceeded in real time up to that point -- doubles back and follows three thrill-seeking kids who stole into the forbidden building around the same time the SWAT team entered. They are also toting a camera -- as a matter of course, it seems -- and record everything they see. It's a conceit that injects a little extra juice into the flagging action; another hit comes with the arrival of a third straggling party, [REC]'s beleaguered journalist, again played by Manuela Velasco. But even their eventually conjoined forces and the addition of two extra cameras can't save the film from its horror ghetto fate.