Not owning a Blu-ray player (or television or an ordinary DVD player, for that matter), I decided to pick up the regular DVD copies of each movie and give them a spin on my old coal-burning computer with the water-cooled monitor and hamster driven DVD.
The original film [●REC] received an impressive 96% freshness (i.e. approval) rating from RottenTomatoes.com. The sequel [●REC]² received a fairly respectable 68% rating.
Sitting in my comfy old wingback armchair with some fresh Ontario peaches, I watched them back to back.
OK, here’s the deal… A reporter and her camera man cover a local Barcelona fire station for their television show While You’re Asleep. The aim is to show their viewers the real-life goings on of people doing their jobs through the night (hence the program title). The station gets a call about an old woman trapped in her apartment. When the police and fire crew break in, there is an old woman in a slip or night-gown, covered in blood, agitated and disturbed. As they move closer, the old woman attacks one of the policemen, biting him savagely in the neck. Something horrible is slowly spreading through the building. Trapped inside, the firemen, police, reporter and cameraman confront the unknown horror. They hide, they try to escape, try to survive… and the whole time, no matter what, the camera records it all, right to the very end.
So… We’re not even fifteen minutes into the movie and the mayhem ensues right effen immediately! We’re given about ten minutes or so of set-up, boring footage around the station where nothing much happens. They get the call, drive to the apartment building, break into the old lady’s house, find the old lady… and then Aaaiiieeee!! Zero to sixty in 30 seconds! You know that G-Force feeling of being pushed into your seat when a car peels rubber or a jet takes off? That’s what it was like! Holy smokes! One by one, people get picked off as the danger spreads and the survivors try to figure out WTF is going on.
The movie is fairly short, clocking in at only 78 minutes. Not a lot of time is wasted. It is chopped and stripped down. And it moves. FAST! And it scares the hell out of you! The plot is brilliant, simple and classic… people in a confined space with something really bad. It grabbed me on a gut level and never let me go. Also, because everyone is trapped in the building… it is sealed off and quarantined by the police as a kind of bio-hazard area (few things give me the sinking ‘oh crap!’ heebee-jeebies like a guy in a full hazmat suit) … the sense of claustrophobia and the inability to escape only adds to the mix. Think Alien and The Thing (there’s no escape) meet 28 Days Later (zombie rage virus) in a Spanish apartment building. And the whole first-person ‘through the camera lens’ point of view thing, as used in The Blair Witch Project, The Last Exorcism and Quarantine (the 2008 American remake of [●REC]), really works well here and is even more powerful because unlike Blair Witch which has two cameras and [●REC]² (reviewed below) which utilizes multiple cameras to great effect, [●REC], like The Last Exorcism, uses only the one camera to capture everything. Of all the shaky handheld camera ‘found footage’ movies… this one really stands out.
There are virtually no extraordinary visual or special effects in [●REC]. No computer graphics. No music soundtrack. There’s just the script, the actors, the building and that one camera. The performances are wonderfully intense and realistic without going overboard into “acting.” You can almost smell the panic and fear.
I loved [●REC]. If you enjoy fast-paced heart-pounding ‘bump in the dark’ scares, so will you!
Two bloody quarantined infected fingers WAY up!
I have to say, I was a bit leery going into this movie. I enjoyed [●REC] so much that I was not looking forward to being let down by the sequel. With a few rare exceptions (Dawn of the Dead, Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, The Dark Knight), sequels are disappointing… even more so when the original was really great.
So, I added coal to the computer, poured fresh water into the monitor’s radiator and gave the DVD hamster some more food pellets. I sat in the old wingback armchair with some Breyer’s Reece’s Peanut Butter Cups ice cream and braced myself.
OK, here’s the deal… [●REC]² takes places immediately after the events of [●REC]. A four-man special ops team, Grupo Especial de Operaciones (GEO), equipped with helmet-mounted video cameras and one hand-held video camera arrives at the quarantined building where they meet a Dr. Owen from the Ministry of Health. Dr. Owen briefs them on the infection which he describes as a kind of rabies, the key symptom of which is extreme violence. Like in the first movie, most of the sequel is shot from the main hand-held video camera carried by one of the GEO. This reproduces the original shaky-camera feel of the first movie but in an enhanced way in that the movie switches back and forth between the main video camera and the individual helmet-mounted GEO team cameras giving us multiple points of view.
I have to admit that seeing the inside of that building again, especially the fifth floor apartment, gave me goosebumps. Significant creepage, definitely.
Anyway… They run into a nasty zombie-infected ghoul who immediately bites and turns one of the GEO team. The infected GEO member attacks the rest of the team but Dr. Owen manages to fight him off with some prayers and a rosary. Turns out Dr. Owen is actually Father Owen sent by the Vatican to get blood samples from the little Portuguese girl, Medeiros… the ‘patient zero’ we learn about at the end of the first movie… and to help the other priest who was in charge of her.
Father Owen and the GEO try to locate the original blood sample in the hopes of finding a cure for the infection which, it turns out, is actually a kind of bio-chemical demonic possession. They discover that the infected zombies sometimes use the apartment building duct work to get around. One of the GEOs finds a refrigerator hidden away in duct work. It has a test tube containing a sample of Medeiros’s blood. Naturally, they accidentally destroy the sample while testing it to see if it is genuine.
Mayhem ensues as Father Owen and the GEOs now have to obtain a fresh blood sample from Medeiros herself, this time in a building full of infected ticked-off zombies who now know they are there! It’s not easy. And it’s not pretty. These zombies can take a lickin’ and keep on tickin’. Not a lot seems to work on them. Other non-infected people are now discovered in the building. Three teenagers who snuck in via the sewer system and the father of the infected girl from the first movie (not the Medeiros girl… the little blonde girl with the fever and the annoying mother). In [●REC], Dad went out to the drugstore to get medicine for his daughter, thinking she had tonsillitis. Well, he came back with the medicine only to be shot by the GEOs thinking he was some kind of zombie pharmacy delivery man, I guess. Oh and the reporter from the first movie shows up, too!
Trying to find the possessed Medeiros girl, trying to get the blood, trying to hide from the infected zombie menace and ultimately trying to get out of that effen building… it all makes for a chilling and harrowing time for the survivors.
But wait a minute… didn’t the reporter lady get attacked by an infected zombie and dragged away in the dark at the end of [●REC]? How did she escape unscathed? Or did she?
One never knows… do one?
I was not disappointed with [●REC]² after all, thank goodness, and while I did not think it was nearly as amazing as the original, it definitely did not ruin the [●REC] experience for me. Lots of surprises, interesting plot twists and turns, good performances, great zombie attacks and a creepy ending that ties everything together in a nice bloody disease-ridden knot.
One and a half chocolate peanut butter ice cream smeared infected zombie thumbs up!
 No matter what, when someone approaches you and he’s in a hazmat suit and you’re not… that is rarely a good thing.