Balagueró is without a doubt one of the brightest talents of the Spanish horror scene, but it wasn't until he launched [rec] together with partner in crime Plaza that he received true international recognition. Reactions to the news of a second instalment were quite mixed, as is always the case when sequels are announced. Undeservedly so, as [Rec]2 proves to be a very worthy sequel indeed.
The film starts off where the first one halted. Quite literally as the last shot of the first is the opening shot of this sequel. From there on, we switch to a team of special ops who are to join a doctor inside the sealed off house. All the elements you need for another ninety minutes of manically filmed fun with infected people.
At first Balagueró and Plaza seem to fall in the trap of explaining too much. The first film kept rather vague about the specifics of the infection, the first part of [Rec]2 reveals a complete background story. While not quite original, the good news is that both directors actually use these explanations to add a couple of neat twists to the film. Rather than destroy the whole atmosphere, they succeed in making it more intriguing. A bold choice, but one that pays off.
Halfway through the film the perspective is changed from the special ops to a group of kids trying to enter the building through the sewers. An interesting switch that brings some needed variation and is incorporated quite naturally into the film. Again Balagueró and Plaza take a gamble as it does pull the audience away from the building and the action, releasing the tension a little. But the interlude is short and proves a big asset later on in the film.
Visually there are some new tricks with head cams for each soldier, resulting in even crappier image quality (scanlines and everything) yet even cooler shots. Pretty awesome stuff making the small rooms even more claustrophobic. Camerawork is still in the same vain as the first film, so people with a grudge against it can safely ignore this sequel. Others can rejoice, as both directors made sure to perfect their skills.
But it's the sound design that raises the film to even higher levels. While the idea behind [Rec] is on-the-spot realism, both films remain extremely stylized. Not like horror competitor Paranormal Activities, which looks as if you and I could make it ourselves, but tinkered and twisted to perfection. It lies in small things, like the dying, softly distorted buzz whenever a camera switches off, but these little details let the film rise high above the competition. The sound design is simply terrific, making it creepier than it has any right to be.
Acting is more or less on the same level as the first. This means solid, immersive performances, but lots of screaming and manic acting. If it gets on your nerves, this might just as well destroy the feel of the whole film. If it doesn't, it gets you right on the edge of your seat. There's probably not much middle ground, so it all depends which side you're on.
The surprise of the first film is gone. There's little you can do about that. But Balagueró and Plaza inserted enough original elements to make the film stand on its own two feet while still functioning as a direct sequel. Not everyone will like these changes, such is life, but I believe they added something substantial to the [Rec] saga. At the very least they allowed for some rather creative changes and ideas.
If you didn't like the first film, I can't see how you'll like this one. Stylistically the films are very much alike, though the directors made better use of the style this time around. The surprise effect is gone, but that loss is almost nullified by the new elements inserted into the film. Not as chilling as the first film, but still extremely atmospheric, a true blast to watch on the big screen and a hell of a ride. A pretty perfect sequel if you ask me.