The late night film series at the Uptown Theatre this summer, Friday and Saturday evenings right around midnight, has been able to bring movies to the Twin Cities that would not otherwise find a venue. The series has featured some of the more oddball, grossout films on the midnight circuit—including Trash Humpers, The Human Centipede, and Gone With the Pope. [Rec] 2, the sequel to the original cult Spanish horror/supernatural film, will be having its Minnesota premiere this weekend; it’s an entertaining and thrilling sequel that proves to be scarier, gorier, and more suspenseful than its predecessor. (The original [Rec], released in 2007, spawned an American remake the next year, Quarantine, written and directed by Minnesota brothers Drew and Erik Dowdle. It went on to be a surprise hit in theaters and on DVD.)
Picking up 15 minutes from where the original film left off (if you’ve not seen the original, spoiler alert!), [Rec] 2 opens with darkness and screams, even before the opening credits appear, until we see SWAT members preparing to go into battle facing something not human. What caused all the tenants to become possessed is still unknown; in [Rec], a reality TV crew went into an apartment complex to film and found residents trapped within the complex, unable to escape a zombie-like infestation. The only thing known about the virus is how it spreads (through blood and saliva). By the time the SWAT team arrives, many of the tenants are now dead or infected by the virus, which has spread through a now-quarantined apartment building leaving few unaffected by the plague.
Helming the original and the sequel, writer/directors Jaume Balaguero and Paco Plaza understand the intensity of immediately bringing the viewer into the fold, turning an old haunted-house story into a helter-skelter nightmare and keeping viewers quarantined along with the demonic zombies, the SWAT members, and a sneaky virus specialist who believes he has found the cure. Credit also goes to cinematographer Pablo Rosso, who establishes a compelling POV style (think more of the kinetic style of District 9 than the slower-than-molasses movement in The Blair Witch Project). The camera is more technologically advanced and more incorporated into the action than in the previous film (Rosso himself plays the cameraman onscreen), showing the viewer a picture-in-picture screen from another SWAT member’s POV, but there are moments of sheer suspense, when Rosso’s camera cuts out or blurs, where the tension and terror heighten. Editor David Gallart delivers some snazzy cutthroat scenes, especially one with a SWAT member, Larra, who locks himself in a bathroom; it’s the most chilling and effective sequence in the film.
At times, Balaguero’s and Plaza’s direction steers a little into the genre cliché of stock characters who have no personality; we don’t know much about them other than their yelling and screaming. It’s often hard to tell who is talking to whom, or even what person is walking down a dark hallway; we just know that the infected raging beasts are looming behind doors, jumping out of the woodwork or hanging from the ceiling. Viewers will be rewarded with plenty of gore and surprises and perhaps couldn’t care less about who’s getting his or her face bitten off. There is an insignificant subplot involving three kids who sneak their way into the complex; on the other hand, there is someone who unexpectedly appears late in the picture and may hold the key to solving the virus.
Despite its lack of character development, [Rec] 2 succeeds on the other end of the horror spectrum in giving the audience what it mostly wants: some scary-as-shit moments that leave new blood splattered all over the walls.