I love “found footage/shaky camera” films! Blair Witch Project still stands up as one of my favourite horror films and it was joined by Paranormal Activity recently. I also like it when this type of film tries something outside of basic horror, Cloverfield being a fantastic example. It can rack up the tension and put you straight in the action. Blair Witch, Paranormal Activity and Cloverfield all worked brilliantly because the person behind the camera was actively involved in the film, meaning the viewer is actively involved in the film!
Unfortunately the whole “found footage” film has began to die a death. Paranormal Activity 2 was poor (mainly because it detached the viewer from the action) and as a precursor to what I’m about to say, REC (1) was pretty average too. Neither really brought anything new to the type of film and because of that I was never really impressed. I was even more dissapointed with REC because I’d heard such good things about it.
I’m never one to shy away from a film, even if the first wasn’t up to the standard I had hoped. So I watched REC 2, expecting the same as the first, particularly because the film is set about half an hour after the events of the first film. I couldn’t have been more wrong. This film takes everything the first one did well and any other “found footage/shaky cam” film and amplifies it by ten! It throws you straight into the action. There is no distance between the “monsters,” the suspense and terror and the viewer. It uses the knowledge and events of the first film to ramp up the terror even more and manages to bring something brand new to the film, even though it is pretty much the same concept as the first.
In the first REC, firemen and a film crew documenting their evening (a kind of “night in the life of a” documentary) investigate a disturbance at a block of flats. They are quarantined after they enter and realise that the disturbance is actually the tenants turning into zombies. We see everything from the main cameraman’s perspective and it’s pretty average and doesn’t do anything new or unexpected.
REC 2 follows a small group of soldiers, armed with helmet camera’s and guns, as they go and investigate the building half an hour after they lost contact with the firemen from the first film. They go in with a “doctor” and try to find the source of the “infection.” You’ll notice the speech marks because the story and the origin of the “disease” changes in this film and because of that, the actual film itself is massively improved, completely changing what the film is about. The original was a standard survival horror, as most “found footage” films are. This is actually a “hunt and find” film, following these soldiers as they actively seek out the monsters.
The film builds upon some standard “found footage” cliche’s but makes them better. The head cam’s on each soldiers helmet means we now have multiple views of the action and the film even switches perspectives completely half way through, giving the film a completely different dimension. The fact that they are soldiers also adds an almost “Call of Duty” perspective to the footage, with the guns always in sight as if you are actually playing through the film rather than watching it.
There is also clever links back to the previous film and a revelation that makes the last twenty minutes even more exciting. The use of cameras and particularly the “night vision” ramps up the tension further and keeps you on the edge of your seat.
I never left the edge of my seat. As with all these films, it starts slow and builds up to the big “monsters reveal” and from then I was hooked. Scared, excited and even dumbfounded by some of the things the characters were doing. The director clearly felt comfortable enough after the first REC to play with the genre and because of that made a fantastic, clever and engrossing film that has become the best I have seen so far this year!
REC 2 shows that there is still some life in the “found footage/shaky cam” film yet. I’m excited to see Troll Hunter which is in the same vein as Cloverfield and the new take on the Superpowers movie that is released next week, Chronicle!
Overall, this film is terrifying in places and will keep you on the edge of your seat. It won’t stay with you after the credits like Blair Witch or Paranormal Activity but it did get me excited for the prospect of the third film that should be out later this year.
(1 – Awful, 2 – Average, 3 – Good, 4 – Great, 5! – Must See)