In 2007/2008 the Spanish film [Rec] was released and went on to be a surprise box office success and a hit on DVD. In 2008 a US remake was released, entitled Quarantine which was reasonably successful at the box office but less well received by critics. May the 28th finally sees the release in UK cinemas of the sequel, [Rec] 2, to the Spanish original.
The first film featured a plucky TV reporter who follows a group of fire-fighters into a block of flats whose residents have become ‘infected’. This has turned them into zombie like creatures who attack and infect ayone who gets in their way.
We realise at the end of [Rec] that the genesis (pun intended) of the ‘infection’ that creates the fast moving zombie like creatures is actually the result of demonic possession and that there may be some medical explanation for this otherwise supernatural concept. Although [Rec] 2 goes further with this concept, evoking horror classics such as Friedkin’s The Exorcist, the plot never spirals out of control and even a sceptic and atheist such as myself could enjoy the fantastical concept without ever feeling as if the film was forcing religious explanations or attempting to legitimise these elements. The film only asks that you except one conceit and the rest of the plot successfully rests on this one central premise.
The main characters in [Rec] 2, whose ‘eyes’ we see the events unfold through, are soldiers and a specialist who leads them. They are sent into the apartment block following the events of the first film. A lot of the action in the film is filmed via the cameras mounted to the soldier’s helmets and where it is not there is another diegetic camera source to film the events.
Although these characters are not particularly well fleshed out, the dynamic between them is a effective and believable. I would argue though that the character arcs are not central to the film and it is the visual style and the effective aesthetic that results in this being an enjoyable action horror film.
This visual style rests on the use of point-of-view camerawork and although there are recent antecedents to this in films such as Cloverfield and The Blair Witch Project, it is not actually these films that provide the most accurate comparisons.
One film that did come to mind was the recent Matthew Vaughn film Kick-Ass where the audience sees an action scene from the POV of the character Hit Girl, through a pair of night vision goggles. This POV shot is very similar to that used in a type of video game often referred to as First Person Shooters. The experience of watching [Rec] 2 is similar to this one scene but used throughout and in a less audacious and comical way.
When watching [Rec] 2 the connections I made to previous work with a similar aesthetic was, except for for Kick-Ass, all in the world of video games rather than film. The visual style and raw visceral experience of [Rec] 2 shares so much in common with the Resident Evil games and in particular Left 4 Dead and its subsequent sequel.
Due to the main conceit that involves most of the shots coming from the cameras mounted on the soldier’s helmets there are a lot of shots down dark corridors followed by an ‘infected person’ running towards the camera and then leaping directly at the camera, filling the cinema screen. This rushing forward and jumping at the camera is a common device in modern video games, especially in zombie games, but it can also be seen in Call of Duty where the dogs attack in a similar way. On a purely visceral level this technique is incredibly effective.
Although story, character investment and emotional engagement are important, modern roller-coaster media experiences such as some modern horror films and video games are reliant on the thrilling ride they take the viewer/gamer on as much as the former elements.
Qualifying my assessment with the caveat that the story and characters are a little underdeveloped and I had little emotional investment, I applaud the filmmakers for creating such a gripping experience, a thrilling ride and an effective horror. Despite my criticism of some aspects of the film I was pinned to my seat and thoroughly enjoyed [Rec] 2.
Check out the official UK Rec 2 website here