Wednesday, October 5, 2011

30 Days of Fright - 04: [REC]2

I read an article recently about Kevin Smith, the bloke behind such films as Dogma, Clerks, Mallrats, and Jersey Girl. In the article it stated that Smith was pulling away from making movies within the studio system, the inference being that he’d go back to the small-scale indie style that made him such as success in the first place. Smith said he liked doing things that way as kids who see those movies are encouraged to try making their own films with their friends as it all feels like something anyone could do and be successful at. Once you add in some big name actors or other expensive element it makes movie-making feel like the domain of only those with the money to pay for it. I wonder then if, in addition to the perceived “realism”, there’s something to be said for the first-person, shot on a video camera and recovered later, style of film made famous by the likes of Blair Witch that might actually redeem that shitty style of film? With the exception of Cloverfield and one or two others, this style produces films that anyone could take a crack at themselves.

It would be nice if there was an upside to this type of movie as it’s a shit excuse for getting material on screen.

 This type of movie makes me as angry as this dude
(and I don't care if the picture has copyright, I nicked it, and I'd do it again!)

Picking up the action from the closing moments of the first movie, the action in [REC]2 switches from inside the apartment building in Barcelona where the zombie outbreak is taking place to the emergency services responding to the crisis, in particular a SWAT team en route to kick some ass or whatever it is SWAT teams do nowadays. The boys are tooled up for some serious trouble and are packing assault weapons, a battering ram, and the ever-popular pump action shotgun. Each of the SWAT team are sporting the latest in miniature video cameras attached to their helmets and one of the crew has a broadcast quality video camera with spotlight as they’ve been ordered to document their activities in the apartments.

Upon arrival the SWAT team are met by a bloke from the Ministry of Health called Owen who is to go in with them and is in charge. Due to the nature of the health risks associated with what’s going on inside, the building has been sealed in plastic and there’s an air-lock type entrance rigged up, everyone going in has to wear gas-masks, and only Owen can get them back out as he has a radio with voice recognition which is needed to get the doors open again.

Once inside Owen tells the lads that the masks were purely for show as the infection isn’t airborne. He goes on to explain that his mission is to get to the cause of the outbreak and gather a sample of some description. As the SWAT team move up through the building they encounter signs of a bloodbath everywhere but very little activity until they near the penthouse apartment and meet their first zombies. Once in the penthouse all hell breaks loose and SWAT team members are lost in an increasingly desperate fight against rampaging zombies. At this point Owen is forced to reveal that he’s not actually from the Ministry of Health but is in fact a Catholic Priest... and the zombies crawling all over the gaff aren’t suffering from some terrible disease at all, but are actually victims of something far more sinister...

 A la tuhuelpa legria macarena, Que tuhuelce paralla legria cosabuena, 
A la tuhuelpa legria macarena, Eeeh, macarena!

I enjoyed the first [REC], the quirky little indie horror film from Spain, so I was keen to see the follow-up if for no other reason than to find out how they justified another ninety minutes of raw-footage type film-making. The methods used to get away with this in [REC]2 show a depth not normally seen in a little sequel like this but more often feature in the types of movies where you’ve seen them all  before. The SWAT team with the helmet cams are a direct rip from Aliens, but thankfully this is acknowledged by the team leader having a dodgy camera (like Drake did in Aliens) and by one of the team keeping his shotgun close (like Hicks who kept his handy “for close encounters”). Making them bring a big-ass video camera around with them so they could document what goes down is a bit of stretch though especially as Owen flat out states that he and his lot would never let the truth of the outbreak get out.

What’s nice is that this excuse for footage only covers the first third or so of the film when suddenly it flips over to the recording from a video camera belonging to some teenagers who were in the middle of orchestrating a prank on the roof of the building opposite and who, thanks to their pesky curiosity, get mixed up in the zombie goings-on across the street. Their video only covers the next third where it again changes to the other video camera in the building... the one from the first film. Throughout these switches the timeline is preserved with only brief overlaps in the action to help the audience keep their bearings. For me, the first-person filming style is getting really old at this point and unfortunately [REC]2 really overcooks certain pieces, like where the helmet cams record gunplay which looks so much like a video game that I’m forced to wonder if there’s a game tie-in somewhere out there. Other scenes then look so much like regular movie style action that it jars you out of the immersive experience the footage was meant to induce.

It is important to point out at this point that the way the movie is filmed is the only failing it has. [REC]2 is excellent! When faced with the challenge of making a sequel to the first [REC] the two lads who returned to the Directors chairs from the first movie decided to dial everything up as far as they could and it worked a charm. The SWAT team angle, the nature of the outbreak, the truth behind the zombies, and the twists near the end are flat out genius. There are scenes where you want the action to take a sinister turn – and it does!!! Adults kill children, children kill adults, and zombies kill everyone regardless of age. There’s blood everywhere, a decent religious angle, guns, mayhem, and videotape.

The issues around subtitles in a fast paced film persist from the original but that just can’t be helped as anything is better than dubbing, except maybe a tiny little person in the corner of the screen doing sign-language; everyone hates that shit, even the deaf.

Two Thumbs Up for [REC]2

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