– an English-language Xerox that somehow fumbled the original shot-for-shot – proved how smart and scary [REC] is.
Mixing George Romero’s zombie chaos with Blair Witch’s trembling aesthetics, it trapped a TV reporter (Manuela Velasco) and cameraman in a building where a virus had mutated the tenants into deranged predators.
[REC] 2 picks up right where Manuela was dragged off by the original’s terrific ending: virus specialist Dr Owen (Jonathan Mellor) and a heavily-armed riot squad enter the block to find out what happened.
You can’t beat the thrill of the premise: codirectors Jaume Balagueró and Paco Plaza have gone for The Exorcist as an actioner. Each SWAT member is fitted with Aliens-style helmet-cams, so we can go Picture-in-Picture as they wade into hell. Within minutes, screaming and shooting are juddering both the camera and your nerves.
Which is one of [REC] 2’s problems. With the tension hitting the ceiling too quickly, the only way is down, not helped by some laughable plot-points that take the edge off the realism. Unlike the original, we also have no time to connect with any of the characters, leaving them anonymous dialogue-yellers. Even at 85 minutes, the movie feels padded.
At the halfway point, Balagueró and Plaza add another layer of cross-cutting to the action: a group of kids enter the building via the sewers, armed with their own camcorder. You can’t help wondering if they ended up with too much raw material – [REC] 2 lurches and stumbles forward like a rabid zombie.
None of which stops it being an effective nerve-shredder. Every empty corridor is full of unease. The carnage is frantic, bloody, relentless. The drama comes veined with black humour. And when the jolting finale hits, you realise this could easily be horror’s next big franchise. Yes, [REC] 3 is already on the way...
Less focused than the ace original, [REC] 2 leans more heavily on horror clichés but skilfully expands on its own world with some truly teeth-grinding suspense and scares. A found-footage fear franchise is born.