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I still remember my first time on a rollercoaster. It was at a Six Flags near Chicago in 2000 and the ride was called “Shockwave”. The monstrous blue coils near the entrance (forming a total of seven inversions) were scary enough from the car park, but none of the heckling from my cousins or the grainy rollercoaster videos I’d seen could have prepared me for what I was in for. I screamed like a girl during that first drop (I’m a boy) and, at least initially, it felt like I’d been through some kind of surreal near-death experience. I’ve been hooked ever since.
For me, a great horror movie produces similar feelings, though the fear is less visceral and the thrill more cerebral. Some of these on-screen simulations have the power to instill us with a sense of dread and despair that lasts long after the movie is over, but most don’t manage to live up to the hype. If the original [Rec] was as ominous and satisfying as my first rollercoaster experience, [Rec] 2 was like the wait in line before it – plenty of suspense but it left me wanting more.
It takes place immediately after the events of the first film as we follow a SWAT team that’s been called to the site of the infected apartment complex. After arriving on the scene they’re told to escort Dr. Owen (a virologist from the Ministry of Health) into the building as they carry out an “inspect and recognition” sweep of the building. It’s clear from the start that these men are doomed as even the SWAT chief isn’t sure who he’s taking orders from; but it doesn’t take long before the true nature of their mission is revealed.
We get a few different perspectives this time around since the SWAT team is equipped with cameras on their helmets, and there’s also a split in the narrative halfway through when we’re introduced to three teenagers who manage to sneak into the complex with a camcorder. These two storylines dovetail seamlessly but it doesn’t really go anywhere.
All of this does little to further the story and it feels more like a novelty trick to cover up the paper-thin characters and shoddy writing, as we see people we know nothing about get killed on-screen. Dr. Owen (played by Jonathan Mellor) was the only character I found interesting but we don’t learn enough about him.
Many of the details about the infection that were hinted at in the first movie are fully utilized here and this sequel uses almost relentless suspense and frequent shocks to keep the viewer glued to their seat. All this builds to a twisted, if slightly predictable, ending but I missed the slow burn and mysterious nature of the first film, which was the best thing about [Rec]. Once the secret behind the infection was revealed, the movie took on a far more sinister tone and didn’t give you a moment to catch your breath before the suspense was ramped up and the film sent you headlong towards the harrowing climax.
To be fair, I don’t think the duo behind [Rec] 2 (director’s Jaume Balaguero and Paco Plaza) were looking to leave the viewer with any lingering unease but, judging by the enormous critical acclaim they got for [Rec], I guess I was expecting something with a little more substance. Instead, this movie comes off more like a carnival ride, where the cheap fun stops soon after the film ends.
Even though I’d recommend it to anyone who’s seen the first film (which was much closer to the “real” thing), this is more of a crowd-pleaser with some predictable scares and plenty of twists and turns. It’s not as subtle or intriguing as the first movie but the thrills and scares from the first film are multiplied to create a suffocating atmosphere that rivals what we get in many modern horror films.
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