Monday, October 26, 2015

[REC] 2

   I'm not a massive fan of the found footage genre. Not even a moderate fan. However, from time to time I do find myself enjoying certain found footage movies like the original [REC], The Taking of Deborah Logan, and a few others. [REC] and this one, [REC] 2 are sterling examples of how found footage can be an excellent storytelling medium without being annoying or contrived. I discovered the first one a few years ago and thoroughly enjoyed it, and soon after a good friend of mine urged me to watch the sequel. I got myself a copy straightaway, but never got around to watching it until now. Oh man, I had no idea the awesomeness that I had just laying around, un-watched, for a full couple years.

  [REC] 2 takes place alongside some of the events of the first movie, which was about a strange viral outbreak in an apartment building. Where the first movie followed a reporter, her cameraman, and a team of firefighters into the horror, this one follows a SWAT team and a government health agent into the same mess. Since all the SWAT officers have cameras on their helmets, the situation is tailor made for more found footage craziness, not to mention the health agent insists that everything be video documented. Now we have what most of these movies don't, a completely solid reason for cameras to be on the entire time. When found footage movies can't even get that straight, and people start filming random things for no reason- the movie falls apart and we're pulled out of the immersion the genre strives so hard for.

   [REC] 2 constantly finds ways to address common problems with cameras and with the genre itself. Low batteries, broken lenses, interference, etc. More than that however is how creative it gets with the same material. Without giving anything away, the climax cleverly involves the protagonists having to use the night vision mode on one of the cameras. This is something the first movie did, and this movie takes it a full step further. It's great, I love it. The real star of the show is actually the atmosphere and the melodrama. There's lots of intensity in this movie, of course, but the actors sell their roles with full-on gusto. It draws you into the movie immediately. I was on the edge of my seat from the beginning. The atmosphere is likewise fantastic. A regular old apartment building becomes so much more than the sum of it's parts. Long hallways become creepy deathtraps and everything is a creepy maze of doors, crawlspaces, and secret rooms.

   Another thing I noticed is the superb use of light. I can imagine it's rather an afterthought in a lot of these kinds of movies but in this one, each scene is crafted to draw your eye to a specific detail. A certain shadow, or a person lurking in the background. The more you watch, the more you start visually scouring the dark areas of every scene looking for something that may or may not be there. When it is, it's absolutely horrifying. I give the movie major kudos for this. It commanded my attention right away and didn't let it go til the end credits rolled. This movie is far removed from the usual gimmicky nonsense that popularizes the genre. The director went to great lengths to use the found footage premise as a tool to heighten the scares and ramp up the tension. In short, it works.

   The story itself is actually just as cool. Mild spoilers ahead? There's a major religious/supernatural twist to what you might otherwise think is just another zombie story. The movie is full of creative set pieces and plenty of over the top violence, but what makes this movie real unique is their take on the zombie phenomenon. It's not just a virus, see... it's demonic possession. It's a twist that puts a whole new spin on things and feels fresh to be honest. They managed to flawlessly merge those two iconic horror staples together to create something thought provoking and genuinely scary.

   As the movie shuttles the characters around from one location to another in the building, you would think a sense of tedium would set in, but the movie never sits still. It's constantly in motion, things are constantly happening, and things are revealed to us in a timely fashion. Even if you can tell where the plot is going, the raw tension and the violent set pieces will keep you from getting settled in. This movie excels at keeping you on the edge of your seat. It's very tightly paced and exceptionally well edited. The only weak point I think is probably the characters. Given that the movie doesn't even reach the full 90 minute mark, including end credits, there's next to no character development whatsoever. Then again, things get so crazy so fast, all you need to know is that these people want to survive. That's it.

   It's hard enough finding stuff worth watching in the horror genre nowadays, it's even harder to find a found footage horror movie worth watching. [REC] 2 succeeds on both counts and with flying colors. It's fast, freaky, gross, gory, intense and flat-out nerve wracking. It also manages to be creative and unique in a genre awash with movies so... expected and standard that they've invented brand new cliche's faster than any other movie genre around. That's really saying something.  [REC] 2 is able to stand out from that mess of junk while managing to be an excellent horror movie, found footage fan or not, I fully recommended this excellent fright-fest.

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