Everything that made the original such a nightmare-inducing roller coaster ride is back in full force in the sequel, “[REC] 2,” which was written and directed by Jaume Balagueró and Paco Plaza, both of whom returned from the previous film. Like the original, “[REC] 2” deploys found footage technique and continues the story of the demon/zombie virus outbreak in the quarantined apartment building in Barcelona.
“[REC] 2” takes place 15 minutes after the events of the first in the quadrilogy, but from the point of view of a new group of protagonists. Dr. Owen, an official from the Ministry of Health, who later reveals himself as a priest, equips his special operations team with POV cameras to help control the outbreak.
Later, we learn that Owen is really using the mission to acquire a blood sample from Tristana– the young girl from the first film who was the original contractor of the demon virus. He believes her blood will help him find a cure to the virus before it spreads any farther. It was revealed in “[REC]” that the virus was directly linked to the Vatican and that the it originated in Tristana after she was raped by a group of priests.
On paper, mixing zombie-like viruses with demon occult and found footage style seems like it would feel forced. But in the [REC] series, it all comes together seamlessly. And it might be the first of its kind.
Played back-to-back, [REC] 1 and 2 feel like two-parts of a single movie. It’s evident that filmmakers Balagueró and Plaza are really passionate about the narratives they’ve established in the first– because the second continues the storyline with greater depth. Rather than specific characters, “[REC] 2” explores situations. Everyone inside the building has a unique perspective of the outbreak.
This sequel doesn’t show all of its cards. The cameras are all held by or are attached to non-professional camera operators, and many of the apartment hallways and rooms are pitch black. So when moments come when the cameramen are attacked and the screen cuts to black, there is a lot left to the imagination. And the directors use this tactic to great effect. So when we finally do see the possessed up-close, it’s shocking.
At one point, “[REC] 2” splinters into two narratives– giving viewers two parallel story-lines that later converge into one. We meet three ballsy teenagers who sneak into the apartment building through the sewer system, only to have their exit point sealed off by police officers. They’re forced to make their way through the apartment to find their way out.
This breaks the film up into three parts– the one with the SWAT team, the one with the kids and the third act when they’re together. This adds structure to a film that might otherwise be difficult to follow. There’s more perspectives to explore, but it also removes that linear sequence that made the original so gripping.
“[REC] 2” is also more high-concept that its predecessor, which might divide audiences. In fact, Haley and I (the two people compiling this marathon list) found ourselves at odds during one particular scene in the final act, wherein a demon suggests that light makes certain supernatural objects disappear. Later, Owen and company use the camera’s night-vision feature to find a door that disappears when the lights are turned on.
While I enjoyed the abstract elements that the filmmakers were introducing here, Haley (and other critics) found them difficult to accept. Everyone has different tipping points for believability, and “[REC] 2” certainly operates along the edges.
For fans of the original, “[REC] 2” offers exactly what you’re looking for– more fast-paced gorey (and often combat-heavy) fatalities, deeper religious history of the virus and more intense high-stakes, claustrophobic mayhem. “[REC] 2” transcends its many zombie and “Exorcist” inspirations into the perfect sequel to a brilliant film.