R: [REC]2 (2009)

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Hello again to Spain, the MVP in this year’s Hubrisween challenge! ¡Ustedes molan!

I reviewed [REC] back in 2012] , and I have no idea why I took five years to get around to its sequel, because I loved it. It did everything right for a found footage movie, and at barely 80 minutes, it didn’t have time to get bogged down. Small wonder that directors Jaume Balagueró and Paco Plaza went back to that well, and amazing that they did it so well.

We’re still on the same night as the first movie, and a four man Special Forces squad (Óscar Zafra, Ariel Casa and Alejandro Casaseca) is gearing up to go inside the sealed apartment building. They are joined by Dr. Owen (Jonathan Mellor) from the Ministry of Health, who has a very special mission: he has to get to the top floor to obtain a blood sample he somehow knows is there, a blood sample that will enable the formulation of an antidote to the mysterious plague that is turning people into violent zombies. It’s up to the squad to get him there and out.

And we all know it is just not going to be that simple.

Balagueró and Plaza open up the scenes nicely; all the troops have networked helmet cameras feeding into the main camera held by one of the troops, Rosso (Pablo Rosso, who was the cameraman in the first movie, for all you Easter Egg fans). There was a suspicion in the first installment that the plague was supernatural in origin, which is borne out this time, especially when Owen seals a zombie in a room with a crucifix and reveals a priest’s collar under his jacket. Patient Zero, we are told, was a girl the Vatican verified as possessed, and a secret lab was established in the building to find a scientific basis and cure for demonic possession.  A journal in the penthouse mentioning mosquitoes points the way to what went wrong with that plan. It’s her blood Owen needs to find.

All of this is pretty straightforward and suitably intense, with the result that the story has pretty much run its course 40 minutes in. Perhaps there was some criticism over the brevity of the first movie, because the squad’s camera is damaged at that point, and we pick back up with three bored teenagers (Andrea Ros, Alex Battalori, and Pau Poch), briefly seen by the squad in the building when all hell started breaking loose. They had been videotaping a failed prank on the roof across the street before being evacuated by the cops earlier in the evening. They follow a desperate tenant from the building and a fireman (looking for his friends from the first movie) who go through the sewers into the building by a basement access. Their camera takes up the story until they finally intersect with the squad – trouble is, their battery is dying, and it’s remarkable how tense that flashing red icon makes me. Then again, I’m a videographer in my day job.

At this point a surprising survivor from the first movie pops up, and their TV camera takes a licking and keeps on ticking, which is fortunate, because if you thought things had gone to hell before, well, you likely aren’t ready for the third act, with a trip back to the top floor and the return of the night vision camera.

The intrusion of the three teens is really annoying at first, but necessary, since the story’s intensity at this point has winnowed down the cast of characters and some more fodder was needed. I don’t see much way to speed that portion of the movie up, but there’s no denying that going back into setup mode puts the brakes on the movie’s momentum.

No matter. Still fun, still a great ride.

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