Monday, May 23, 2011

[REC]2 (Spain, 2009)

The curse of the sequel strikes again: a very good film begets a very crappy one.
Not that, per se, there is really that big of a difference between part one ([REC]) and part two ([REC]2), the latter which starts within moments of the end of the former, but seldom has a film proven itself so pointless, so unnecessary, so obviously an attempt to simply milk more money from the success of the first than [REC]2. With two more follow-up films in the planning – parts 3 ([REC] Genesis) and 4 ([REC] Apocalypse) – Jaume Balagueró and Paco Plaza's [REC] franchise seems on its way to becoming the least-needed and disappointingly uninteresting viral-evil franchise since Paul W.S. Anderson's money-making but dreadfully uninteresting Resident Evil franchise, a franchise that likewise began with an unexpectedly interesting first film – Resident Evil (2002 / trailer) – and then devolved into pointless idiocy quicker than the average American (North, Central and South) loses an international geography quiz.
[REC]2 is very much the Piranha II: The Spawning (1981) to Piranha (1978 / trailer), the Alligator II: The Mutation (1991 / trailer) to Alligator (1980 / trailer), the An American Werewolf in Paris (1997 / trailer) to An American Werewolf in London (1981 / trailer), the Candyman: Farewell to the Flesh (1995 / trailer) to Candyman (1992 / trailer), the Exorcist II: The Heretic (1977 / trailer) to The Exorcist (1973 / trailer), the Howling II: Your Sister Is a Werewolf (1985 / trailer) to The Howling (1981 / trailer), the The Hills Have Eyes Part II (1985 / trailer) to The Hills Have Eyes (1977 / trailer). In other words, [REC]2 fails in any way to be even a smidgen as interesting as the film that inspired it, and really should have been entitled Been There, Done That instead of [REC]2. (To give credit where credit is due, however, some of the previously mentioned crappy sequels are at least laughably enjoyable; [REC]2 isn't even that.)
Balagueró, like Stephan King, never misses the chance to add even the most banal indication of the supernatural, so possibly taking the cue from the numerological fun of King's 1408 (2007 / trailer), [REC]2 starts exactly – GASP!! – 13 minutes after the end of the extremely effective part one. (OK, that the film starts 13 minutes later could be just the imagination of the reviewer over at Arrow in the Head, but I for one find the film, as a whole, so half-assed that the concept becomes believable.)
Now, however, instead of a bubbly bonkable babe with enough of a prior introduction to provide a core character to care for (and a variety of other quickly dead fodder that are at least given some introduction and likable traits), we just get a bunch of interchangeable SWAT team members and a doctor/priest with a broomstick up his ass. And instead of one camera to supply the disorienting but at least centralized Blair Witch eye, we get 4 or 5 or 6 or 7 different cameras to jump around between – the result is less disorientation than total confusion and, eventually, a headache and total alienation. By the time [REC]2 finally ends, the retinal relief felt makes one as happy as one is pissed at having wasted one's time on such a piece of cinematic mierda.
Halfway through the film, Balagueró and Plaza seemed to have realized that the small group of SWAT members was decimating much too quickly and that more fodder was needed, so they came up with an additional five dead-to-be, three of which are pulled into the story from so far out of the left field that it would have made about as much sense (and been equally believable) to simply beam half of the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise into the story.
And the result of adding more fodder? More running around and attacks and blood and virally infected, all in the exact same manner of the first film; without an iota of the audience's sympathy, however, it all becomes boring and disinteresting, if not simply aggravating.
[REC]2 does clarify a few things from the first film. The priest that supposedly headed for the hills after creating the virus is revealed to have never left the house: he drops into the picture at one point in a highly dead and mummified form. The boy in the attic, seen for all of five seconds in the first film, proves to be but one of many: the mummy priest seems to have had a whole trove of pre-pubescent kiddies in his attic as playthings – er, I mean, as lab rats – and they don't just inhabit the attic, but the air ducts as well (an architectural feature I don't think I've ever seen in an old multi-floor European apartment house before).
Oh yeah: [REC]2 also introduces a new aspect which is surely to be of importance in parts 3 and 4: the evil is more than just a viral form of possession, it is also a worm-thing that can inhabit the body – sort of like the mother cockroach in They Nest (2000 / trailer). That three-second scene is perhaps the only truly effective money shot of the film, but by the time it happens you really don't give flying fuck anyway.
Unlike, say, with Romero's Dawn of the Dead (1978 / trailer) or Cameron's Aliens (1986 / trailer) or Robocop II (1990 / trailer) or Blade II (2002 / trailer) or Mad Max II: The Road Warrior (1981 / trailer) or Evil Dead II: Dead by Dawn (1987 / trailer) or even Final Destination II (2003 / trailer), Balagueró and Plaza do very little in way of trying to make [REC]2 stand alone as a film with personality of its own: for all intents and purposes, it is a simple and uncreative regurgitation of part one, but without most of the non-visceral features that made part one work so well such as all character-introducing aspects (or even characters) or unpredictability. If you've seen part one, part two is unnecessary in all respects; it's a bit like drinking, say, a glass of Paul Masson after a nice glass of Reserva – theoretically, both wines are made from grapes, but the same ingredients simply don't amount to the same final result.
[REC]2 is a film made for the brain dead, the undiscerning and easily pleased, for those who think a regurgitated steak and lobster with a side of Cheez Whiz is the culinary highlight of the world. [REC]2: to be avoided at all costs – unlike the film that preceded it, [REC], which is unadulterated steak and lobster without any Cheez Whiz.

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