Theatrical review: [REC] 2

If you see a zombie, film it!

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Certificate: 18
Director: Jaume Balagueró, Paco Plaza
Screenwriters: Jaume Balagueró, Manu Díez, Paco Plaza
Cast: Manuela Velasco, Jonathan Mellor, Óscar Sánchez Zafra
Distributor: E1 Entertainment
Running Time:84 mins

Opening with a sequence viewed from the helmet-mounted cameras of a SWAT team en route to the same apartment building from the first film, [REC] 2 picks up exactly where its opening instalment left off – same location, same ‘infection’, same handheld, video-cam shooting style (there are no Book Of Shadows upgrades here), but the same style over substance hold ups too.

The scene: said SWAT team roll up at the Barcelonan apartment complex that became a Catalan flesh-munching Mecca in 2007 to much box office success, this time with a priest (his religious identity at first concealed from the gung-ho shoot-first brigade) for company. Creeping round corners, up the complex’s stairwells, into abandoned empty rooms, it’s the same stalk-‘n’-slash protocol as before and it’s chillingly effective for the most part, the camera functioning as our eyes and ears, its point of view ours too. In addition to the now commonplace vantage point offered by the film, there are some added shoot-’em-up style sequences which are reminiscent of Karl Urban’s much fanfared Doom moment too, as the SWAT go trigger-happy on their flesh-crazed adversaries. There’s all the regulatory loud, crashing ‘jump’ moments present as the shadows come alive, but the film’s strongest scene is one of silent terror as the human remains, so to speak, hide from an ‘infected’ that can’t see them, their ‘nobody move’ moment viewed only through a night-vision camera and punctuated by the sound of some rapid heartbeats.

There are also moderately successful attempts to bolster the story with the injection of an Exorcist-themed element, the ‘infection’ coming straight from hell via human possession, and a group of youngsters that find themselves on the bloody front line between man and demon, but the characterisation in both strands is again threadbare at best. The SWAT team are expendable, literally, the priest’s no Father Merrin and, despite a survivor from the initial outbreak returning to the smorgasbord, those seeking something of more substance to, er, sink their teeth into, will find [REC] 2 wanting. But there are plenty of chills and bloodletting to keep gore-fiends sated (one particular moment is an icky, sticky delight) and the effectiveness with which the scares are delivered ensures this is an above average horror that will keep you along for the ride.

The camcorder gimmick conjures plenty of chills and thrills but you can’t help wonder how much life the Blair Witch effect has left.