Friday, October 15, 2010

Rec 2

I don't know what to say about this. Really. It's flat out uncanny. I got this movie a little while ago, I watched it, and I sat down and prepared to write this little review. Then it hit me, I wasn't quite sure what to do with this thing. Should I give it faint praise or give it what for? I didn't really know, and maybe I still don't. The most frustrating part is that it's not Antichrist "What the hell? I mean, seriously, what the hell?"-uncertainty, although there's some similarities. Well, let's just get to it, and we'll see where it goes. Spoilers as big as caribou will follow, consider yourself warned.

Rec 2 starts up where the first one leaves off, or to be more precise, just before the first one ends. Our heroes is a Spanish SWAT-team (or their Spanish equivalent) that is sent to investigate the zombie-infested apparent building. Also, keeping up with the ShakyCam tradition of the first one, the whole movie is told through the helmet cams of said unit, and a traditional camera that apparently can show footage from any of these cameras. They're also teaming up with a government representative who turns out to be a priest.

Here comes the big twist, which kinda ruined it for me. The SWAT guys discover that these zombies seem to be somewhat on the wrong side of the "Zombies are usually Agnostics"-rule, because these zombies recoil from the Word Of God and are restrained by a crucifix on a wall. Yeah. Kind of a tonal shift from the first one, there. Turns out Patient Zero, The Medeiros Girl, really was possessed by Old Nick, or some close acquaintance of his, and she then spread her super demon rage-plague with intentions of... well, taking over the world, I guess. Oh, and she only exists when it's dark, I think, the movie's kinda hazy on this point. Anyway, our priestly friend needs to get a sample of this girl's blood so the Vatican will be able to make a vaccine against being possessed by demons, or something like this. Oh, and the demon possession apparently is in the form of a slug/snake thing. Most horror movies take longer than one sequel before they end up on "Demonic Snake/slug/leech things did it."

I mean... what do I say to this? Rec 1 hinted at a possible supernatural origin, although that theory was uttered by a recluse with a room full of crazy, so I always figured it was some religious nut who had hijacked this otherwise seemingly secular zombie apocalypse, in the vein of what Romero tends to do, so I guess the REC guys should get points for catching me off guard ... buuuuuuut not too many points. Why? Quite simply, Rec 2 isn't all that scary. For one thing, it gives us an actual explanation of what exactly is going on, it introduces a goal other than survival, and... the zombies now have a voice. I didn't think about this earlier, but it now occurs to me, the Main Zombie can go all ASSUMING DIRECT CONTROL on any of the other zombies, and thus our heroes can talk with the villain. In some horror movies, this really really work, like Hellraiser or Nightmare on Elm Street 1 (and pretty much only 1, but still,) but kind of the charm of zombies is that you don't know what the fuck they're about, except munching on your tender flesh, and the REC 1 zombies seemed only tangentially interested in even that.

If I am allowed to further my rant on the topic, which I am, since this is my blog and I don't exactly have to think about my massive fanbase. Take Paranormal Activity, for example. It was so goddamn effective as a horror movie partially because you never knew what the Ghost/Demon/Something wanted, and although it's dislike for the main characters were obvious, you didn't know how to placate it's anger, or if that at all was possible. Sure, there's no reasonable solution in place when our heroes confront the queen zombie, for the lack of a better title, there's a certain dialouge going on, the priest has this "In Christ's name, state your name, demon"-thing going on. Shit, give this guy an old priest and a young priest, a bed and a flight of stairs and he'd solve this whole brouhaha in no time at all.

In addition to the above mentioned, the addition of multiple cameras kind of ruined the experience for me. Sure, in principle, it seemed like a great idea, more openings for "The camera man gets eaten"-scenes, but it really takes away what I figured to be the charm of the first movie. You didn't know everything that was going on, you knew about as much as the cameraman. Fuck dramatic tension, something was going to jump out at you right after you least expected it, and with a little bad luck, it was going to eat you. In a way, they try the same thing, but in a slightly grander scale, as most of the video is as "edited" by the main camera anyway, except a bunch of teenagers show up with their video camera and we see it through their lense. Why did this movie need teenagers? Except that it eats SWAT officers like Cthulhu eats investigators and there's not enough fresh meat otherwise, that is.

The movie also has some problems with plotholes and characters acting stupid. Let's have a look at the former first. So, our heroes are all SWAT, which is to say they're trained for just such situations as they find themselves in, this doesn't ring true with how hillariously badly they do their job. Sure, most SWAT doesn't have to deal with We Are Legion Demon scarybollocks, but they occasionally do monumentally stupid thing. For example, they tend to split up at the drop of a hat, something that seems counterproductive to the process of not getting blindsided by some psycho, also, the priest has a dedication to his cause that he wouldn't believe. I mean, after the third or fourth failure at the objective, shouldn't the man at least consider to cut his losses, nuke the site from orbit and call it a day? Maybe looking into alternative lines of work?

This ties in nicely with one of the bigger plotholes, or worst character stupidity. At the very end, our heroes have finally tracked down the Queen Demon, and they need to get some of her blood, for said vaccine. In the brawl, they kill the creature, and the priest despairs. Now, I realize the filmmakers probably had some fancy ideas about why they couldn't... well, you know, just get the light back off, stab her with a syringe and get the gore and get outta there. Maybe the demonragething leaves the body when it dies or something, but in that case you need to explain that, otherwise it just seems cheap.

I'm starting to realize why I felt conflicted about this movie. It's a little disconcerting actually, but I think I really wanted to like this movie. I'd love this movie to be the good horror movie sequel that I could point at and say "See, you morons? This is how you do it." All the ingredients were there too. Same writer, same director, hell, the main character makes an appearance, I'm still uncertain if the sequel was planned from the start, but it could at least be a sequel that didn't bring immediate shame on the original. Hell, for a few moments in the beginning, I was optimistic, even savoring some of that sweet nervous fear that deeply saturated the first film. The sight of the SWAT team moving through the building was effective, conjuring up the terror from the first film, filling me with questions, how will the SWAT handle the undead? When will the first unexpected, brick-shitting scare happen?

About here would be a good place. Just saying

Unfortunately, I now realize that his movie just didn't work. A sequel should try expanding on the source material, true, but the tone shouldn't be so radically different that anyone going in with the expectations of the first film will be left scratching their heads. Sure, the idea is relatively fresh, but so was the idea behind my next planned review, The Happening, and well... I think most people know how that one goes. It's at this point that I'd say that the sequel hook didn't work , and won't be dragging me back for more, but I'd be lying. I'll be watching the next REC film, if nothing else because I hope the crew behind these movies can get back to the greatness of the first one. Optimism, ho!

No comments: