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Thursday, 20 October 2011

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - [●REC]²

Directed by: Jaume Belaguero
Paco Plaza

Produced by: Julio Fernandez
Carlos Fernandez

Screenplay by: Jaume Belaguero
Paco Plaza

Starring: Jonathan Mellor
Oscar Sanchez Zafra
Ariel Casas
Alejandro Casaseca
Pablo Rosso
Pep Molina
Andrea Ros
Alis Batllori
Pau Poch
Juli Fabregas
Nico Baixas
Javier Botet
Carlos Ollala

Cinematography by: Pablo Rosso

Editing by: Xavi Gimenez

Distributed by: Magnolia Pictures

Release date(s): October 2, 2009 (Spain, theatrical release)
February 27, 2010 (Frightfest, festival)
May 28, 2010 (United Kingdom, theatrical release)

Running time: 85 minutes

Country: Spain

Language: Spanish

Budget: €4, 500,000 (estimated)

Box office revenue: $18, 497, 446

It's amazing what a little bit of cut-and-paste will do: thanks to this function, I do not have to writhe every time I look at the bolderised version of the film's title (REC 2, for the last time). Anywho, I've been keeping up with the films. Fast Five will be my next review, and shall be followed by Tyrannosaur. There will be more, but I have also been doing some research and there are a few films in particular I am looking forward to. I've probably already mentioned 13 Assassins, the latest Takashi Miike film, which is released by the ever-reliable Artificial Eye in the UK, but I would like to flag up a future release by the distributor, The Turin Horse. This is the new film by Bela Tarr, most famous for his extreme long-takes and the film Werckmeister Harmoniak, that depicts the events surrounding Friedrich Nietzsche's mental breakdown as a result of witnessing the flogging of a horse. Personally I've always thought that this story would have made a great film, so it is with pleasure that it has finally been made. Also, I'm really looking forward to Glenn Close' adaptation of George Moore's Albert Nobbs. Having played the character on stage and trying to turn it into a film for nearly thirty years, I hope that Close' labour of love pays off.

So, the next film I will be reviewing is [●REC]² (thank you, trusty cut-and-paste). Just to put this into context, the reason I am reviewing this now two-year-old film is because it was only released in the UK in 2010 and I have only found a DVD copy this year. Sometimes, in the case of foreign-language films, they can be out for a number of years before they get a theatrical or even DVD release, such as Hayao Miyazaki's films. Anyway, this is the sequel to [●REC], a good horror film that was amongst the wave of 2007's shaky camerawork horror films, the best of which was Matt Reeves' Cloverfield. Taking place in the minutes after the events of the first film, Dr. Owen (Jonathan Mellor) enters the apartment block in which the first film is set with a GEO team with the intent being to contain the situation. However, things begin to reveal their true nature, and alongside the horror of the infected people, there is the mystery of what is really going on and who's pulling the strings.

Much of what is good about the first [●REC] film is carried over to the sequel. Pablo Rosso returns as the film's director of photography, and his touch on the camera is certainly contributory to what works about this film. The shaky cam deal has always been problematic, as a lot of action filmmakers seem to have got the idea that after Paul Greengrass' innovations in his films we must up that and shake the camera to shit. Rosso shows some great restraint, focusing on certain images that unnerve and disturb, while managing to maintain a strong, consistent sense of intensity. In light of those who misuse the technique Roger Ebert has labelled "La Shakily Queasy-Cam," Rosso's work excels. Also, unlike much of mainstream horror cinema, which tends to water down the 'terror of horror,' [●REC]², like its predecessor, does not pull any punches on the nastiness. This is a big fat red eighteen for a reason, so do not let children anywhere near it. Also, the first half of the film is strong, undiluted horror cinema. Everything is gradually revealed in a slow manner that gives us an answer, but then changes the questions, to paraphrase Rowdy Roddy Piper. This is of importance particularly in relation to Dr. Owen, whose secretive nature is portrayed very well by Jonathan Mellor. Finally, at around ninety minutes, this is a watchable horror film that is stripped down to efficiency and is rid of a lot of excess flab.

There was much I liked about [●REC]², though frankly there was as much wrong with it as there was right. The main problem, as with most films, is fundamentally due to the script. As I mentioned, the first half of the film is strong and undiluted horror cinema. The same cannot be said of the second half. At the half-way point (no spoilers, don't worry), there is a certain 'change' if you will in the proceedings of the film. Here, the film loses it's central focus, and from then on it comes across as a rushed mess with any little excuse just to bring the film to it's foregone conclusion, cause 'hey, we've got sequels to think about.' These problems that involve the script's structure also screw with the editing: a dramatic change becomes rather deflating and anticlimactic, as opposed to the breath of fresh air it is meant to be. Xavi Gimenez' editing as a result seems as mangled and as rushed as the script. Unlike the first film, which was a controlled, if cliched work, this film exhibits a real lack of control from returning directors Jaume Belaguero and Paco Plaza, who I worry may become the next Takashi Shimizu with regards to their future plans with the [●REC] concept/series. What started off as a very good film ended up by its climax to be rushed and dare I say rather boring.

[●REC]² is one of those cases where it we are led into thinking that this is going to be a much better film than it turns out. It is undiluted horror with a strong visual style from Pablo Rosso that, even with cliches, is filled with a sense of dread and unease. Jonathan Mellor is a good anchor for the central story and also there is present some interesting content surrounding the whole story. However, the script is structurally a fundamental mess, with half of the film seeming rushed, an issue that extends over to the film's editing. The only word that came to mind during the 'change' was "wrong!" Finally, what was bold and daring about the original [●REC] is starting to get old, all the more considering the director's are no longer exhibiting the control they had over their work. Takashi Shimizu did the same and made six different versions of Ju-On in as many years. Even if this is a step above the standard of horror we have been brought to expect, Balaguero and Plaza need to get on to making new stories.

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 5.5/10

The Thin White Dude's Self-Diagnosis - Energised (all that serotonin from the gym, doubt it'll last long!)

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