Spanish Duo Re-Record Mayhem With '[REC]2'

Photo: Does this bloodsauce make me look fat? Once again, Jaume Balaguero and Paco Plaza run the gamut of terror in '[REC]2.'
Magnet Releasing/Courtesy
Does this bloodsauce make me look fat? Once again, Jaume Balaguero and Paco Plaza run the gamut of terror in '[REC]2.'





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The best zombie movie in the recent onslaught of Hollywood brainmunchers isn't "28 Days Later" or even "Zombieland." Neither are real zombie movies to begin with, the former being an acceptable perversion of the genre and the latter just the latest incarnation of the Jesse Eisenberg Doll, in which filmmakers dress the actor in different outfits while selling the same neurotic schtick (Mopey College Student, Mopey Zombie Hunter, Mopey Facebook Executive).

No, the best zombie movie of the Aughts is "[REC]," a Spanish production from 2007 that horrified audiences around the world. The film starts with a Barcelona news program doing a ride-along with a local firehouse. With reporter and cameraman in tow, the firefighters make the grisly discovery of rabid residents and cannibalism in an apartment building. The government then decides to seal off the building and place the inhabitants under a quarantine, leaving the survivors to fend for themselves against hordes of zombies.

"[REC]" kicked off the en vogue shaky camera style that has plagued horror cinema in the last couple years, predating the widely seen and supposed progenitor of said style, "Cloverfield," by over 12 months. If the plot description above sounds familiar, it's because Hollywood remade the movie as "Quarantine" in 2008.

All that critical praise and commercial success raise the stakes for a sequel. But "[REC]2" satisfies the criteria for a follow-up, especially in a world where "Pirates of the Caribbean 4" might exist.

Firstly, the movie picks up right where the last one left off. Directors Jaume Balaguero and Paco Plaza set the action minutes after the end of the first film, a SWAT team is preparing to enter the quarantined apartment building in order to draw some blood samples. Again the audience is privy to a Video Verite, with each soldier comes equipped with a camera on his helmet.

The film caters to fans by following the plot and style of the original. But the directors don't shy away from the innovation that won them so many plaudits. The paradox of horror is that the more we watch, the more we become desensitized to its effects. Therefore the creators had to make their zombies scarier while staying in the canonical limits of their first film. Rule No. 2: do what you did in the first film, but bigger, funnier or scarier. Balaguero and Plaza capitalize on and expand two horrifying aspects of the first film.

Because "[REC]" and its sequel are based in a four-story apartment building, the spatial dynamics of the film are far different from your typical zombie fare. The threat is either from above or below or both, usually coming from either the bottom or top of the frame. The undead will drop into the shot, shocking an audience conditioned to see threats from left or right.

The other powerful tool in the Balaguero and Plaza arsenal is the infantilzation of the zombies. Just like the final zombie of the original, many of the undead are children. They appear small, weak and are likely to get the benefit of the doubt from unsuspecting soldiers, but turn out to be more like Linda Blair in "The Exorcist."

The third rule of sequels should be to challenge your characters and audience. To watch a movie about the same things, filmed in the same way - only here the heroes have more firepower - would be an exercise in pandering. But "[REC]2" develops the tropes of demonic possession hinted at in the first movie in ways that scare characters and audience alike. Overall "[REC]2" succeeds as both a sequel and a standalone movie, the ultimate criterion for enjoyable horror.


Defend Jesse Eisenberg's acting career to Derek at [email protected]



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