Wednesday, 26 May 2010

[Rec] 2

[Rec] 2007 burst out of Spain like the European champions. It is the best zombie film this century. It is arguably the best zombie film since Dawn of the Dead 1978. The opposite corner of the argument is Lucio Fulci’s Zombie Flesh Eaters 1979 - every bit the equal in bombast and verve.

There are a number of reasons why a sequel is filmed. The obvious is exploitative, the best is narrative, a third is popularity - the audience demands it. [Rec] had such impact the remake was released in America before the original (via straight-to-DVD).

[Rec] is a self contained story which is problematic for a sequel. James Cameron faced the same issue with Aliens 1986. His solution was to change lanes. The story he wrote was different albeit based on the same premise. [Rec]2 writes itself into a corner by continuing the original story with no narrative interlude.

Jaume Balagueró and Paco Plaza are the writer-directors. They clearly love their monsters the way Mary Shelly loved hers. They’ve tried to renew the story whilst retaining the familiar boxed-in location. Halloween 2 1981 did not take place in Laurie Strode’s house but even so that film had its narrative inconsistencies: Michael Myers changed from stalker-slasher (in the original) to inventive killer all in the course of one night.
[Rec]2 suffers from the absence of actress Manuela Velasco the emotional core of the first film - a Final Girl tour de force. In her stead is a paramilitary police unit. Their mission is to escort a government technician into the quarantined building to investigate the goings on. SWAT-type cops do not a final girl make. The horror is action packed portrayed but the din of buff men persistently and repetitively yelling the same fear at each other becomes grating.

The filmmakers employ a non-linear narrative to tell two concurrent stories before they merge. Indeed the timeline of the kids would begin near the start of the first film. These are not Hollywood kids. They are neither coquettish nor cute. They are profane, impudent and inquisitive. The only sympathetic characteristic they have is their youth. That is more than enough.

Their introduction is a welcome lull in the mayhem. It affords time to catch breath and survey the story landscape. The Hitchcock ploy of the ticking bomb under the restaurant table of oblivious diners is utilised to optimum devastation. The pace reverts to DEFCON 1 - and then the dénouement.

 [Rec]2 narrative inconsistency is enough to turn the audience against it. Remember the first time you saw The Crying Game 1992? The reveal was shocking enough to induce walkouts. The opposite happened - the audience flocked to it. With [Rec]2 the audience may well desert it in droves. I was initially infuriated at the swerve. Then I accepted it. It’s the result of goodwill.

The point-of-view gimmick is retained which does not detract from the story though it is a gimmick and no more. The acting is compact and fine tuned especially in the second story strand. The zombies have increased intent – they seemed to have sussed the layout of the building. There are additional undead hitherto unseen in the first film. These are enough ingredients for a feast of horror. [Rec]2 can stand alone but as a sequel it falls dead on its face - due to that narrative swerve.

I forgive them. Film opens 28th May in the UK (9th July in the US). Due to its popularity on DVD most of the patrons will have seen the first one. The casual fan won’t forgive them. No one will care for [Rec]3.
Read more Thrill Fiction: The Top 10 Horror Films of 2009
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