The things that went chomp in the night in murky shaky-cam shots are further revealed in “[REC]2,” a sequel to the Spanish cult hit that offers an explanation for something that was far more effective when left largely unexplained. Directors Jaume Balaguero and Paco Plaza push further into “The Exorcist” territory while sticking to “Blair Witch Project”-type visuals, providing additional evidence that the helmers’ brainchild is but a decently executed combo of genre and visual cliches. Name recognition, not word of mouth, will drive B.O. before the usual ancillary killings. Pic bows locally Oct. 2.
In “REC” (remade in the U.S. as “Quarantine”), a bubbly TV reporter (Manuela Velasco) and her unseen cameraman ended up in a quarantined building, where a virus turned the inhabitants into zombie-like beasts that went for the jugular. Using only footage shot by the cameraman, the film delivered some of the same cheap thrills as schlock-verite cousins “The Blair Witch Project” and “Diary of the Dead.”
The original derived most of its force — and probably a large part of its cult following — from its killer ending, and it’s no surprise that part two opens with the last shot of “REC” and immediately picks up after that.
The new group of protags brought into the quarantined house includes Dr. Owen (Jonathan Mellor), apparently a virus specialist from the Ministry of Health, and several local SWAT team members (Oscar Sanchez Zafra, Ariel Cassas, Pablo Rosso).
Not only does the team have an (again unseen) embedded cameraman who records their every move, but each agent also has a tiny camera mounted on his helmet. Though this gives the helmers and editor David Gallart a lot more raw material to work with once the newcomers face off with the hungry creatures, they rarely exploit it to the max, instead often relying on the same single-take shots that made up a large part of the original. Rhythm again seesaws, with a talky buildup giving way to long stretches of nothing punctuated by bursts of dimly lit gore.
Balaguero and Plaza, who authored the screenplay with Manu Diez, revisit and further flesh out the demonic-possession virus hinted at in “REC.” But part of what made that film scary was that the possible effects and workings of the virus were unclear, and that tension is largely deflated here. Several of the exposition scenes are simply ludicrous, none moreso than an unintentionally hilarious scene involving a refrigerator in an air duct that contains a conveniently labeled vial of blood.
Another lens is added to the mix around the 40-minute mark, when a small group of cocksure teenagers (Andrea Ros, Alex Batllori, Pau Poch) enter the building via the city sewers. They, too, document their doings on video, but their storyline adds little except padding.
Acting ranges from scenery-chewing (Mellor) to hysterical (the teens). HD lensing is just OK, and sound design, substituting for a score, is tops. Effects and makeup work get the job done.
The final twist can be seen coming from miles away, leaving the door more than ajar for a possible “[REC]3.”