Mar 23, 2014


So ... I finally got around to watching REC and REC2.    I'm not a fan of the "found footage" conceit, but the films do showcase the possibilities--the things that it does very well.  For example, because the first film was shot by a local TV person, she gets to stop in a quiet moment and talk to people on camera.  It also works very well for suspense, mostly because we only see what the characters see.  Their panic becomes our panic as they run away, their suspense becomes our suspense as they scan the room with their nightscope.

It also showcases the weakness of the conceit.  The human visual system is pretty finely calibrated to compensate for how much we move our heads.  Video cameras?  Aren't.  So when the characters run away, you can't see for crap, whereas in real life you would still be able to.  You have to create increasingly contrived reasons for the characters videoing instead of doing something useful and/or realistic.  The first movie did this all right--they were a news team after all--and the second movie tried really hard without quite getting there: sure, the SWAT team has cameras on their vests, but the priest repeatedly yelling how everything must be documented ... uh ... why, exactly?  Then there was the ending of 2:

*major spoilers here, highlight to read*

If the demon had control of the camera, what possible motivation could it have for leaving the huge loose end of the footage which showed that it had escaped?  And why on earth would it drag her back into the room it had just dragged her out of, apart from the fact that that's where the camera was?

*spoilers end*

That happened so that the dropped camera could catch the action, not for any discernible narrative reason.  I also--and this is a *HUGE* pet peeve of mine--hate the sound of people breathing/clothes rustling into a too-close microphone.  Hate it hate it hate it hate it, and sadly the continued "the characters themselves are filming this as they go along" schtick means we get a lot of it.

Like most original/sequel pairings, the original was better.  There were the obligatory "people in a traumatic situation screaming at the authority figures who won't give them information" scenes, but while I find them annoying they are fairly true to life.  There were the obligatory "girl who is 'just sick'--'she has tonsillitis!'--actually has the zombie virus!" scenes, and there were the obligatory "OMG what's happening?" scenes as the characters figure out which genre they're in.  Again, realistic, but watching characters try to figure out what you learned from the trailer (ie, this is a zombie flick) is boring.  But cliches aside, the movie kept me guessing, kept me in suspense, and while I really wish the girl had been less panicky and/or breathy, I highly recommend the film.  I love the ending bits particularly:

*MOAR SPOILERS, highlight to read*

The demon possession angle was masterful.  I mean, of course the Church would think that a zombie virus was possession and try to treat it as possession.  And of course it wouldn't work, because it's a virus!  I love that their interference prevented proper medical treatment (up to and including getting actual medical personnel on the job of finding a vaccine) by abducting her from the hospital and I love that it's their failed meddling that allowed the thing to spread.  Marvelous.

*spoilers end*

The second movie wasn't nearly as good.  Okay, I kinda understand why they didn't brief the SWAT team.  I also understand why the SWAT team is mad about this.  But the aforementioned "people in a traumatic situation screaming at the authority figures who won't give them information" scenes don't work so well when the folks doing the yelling are trained combat professionals in a building known to be chock-full of face-eating undead with functional ears.  Discipline, much?  Also, we were given to understand that how fast you succumb to the infection depends on blood type.  Rotten luck that everyone in this movie had the same blood type.

But its worst crime is to "solve" the issues raised by the ending of the first movie in the boringest way possible, and since the second movie spoilers the first we won't have any more warnings.  Just stop reading here if you haven't seen it.

Thank you for shitting all over the brilliant ending to the first film and retconning it to something utterly banal.  But since you did, let's talk about it.  The zombies are actually possessed.  Not some kind of viral zombies plus brilliant commentary on the Catholic Church, just an actual demon(s?) which needs a biological agent to function but against which Catholic implements are super effective.  But about that ... you know crosses hold the possessed at bay.  And you didn't hand out crosses to the whole team.  Ooookay.  You know headshots kill them permanently, and you didn't feel like sharing.  You need a sample of the original's blood, not one of the subsequent infections, because MacGuffin.  You can't take the original's blood once the original has been shot because reasons.  Certain things are only actually there in total darkness because it's scarier that way faux archaic mumbo-jumbo, but they radiate infrared.  What's so magical about the visual spectrum?  Can demons only see the same frequencies that we do?

I love zombies, though I'm not a huge fan of horror, but I really wish films would follow their own rules and actually think through the implications of their world-building beyond what will be scary right this second.  Yes, REC2 was scary, and tight (mostly--the teenagers were stupid and should have been cut), but not nearly as good as the first.  Go watch REC, but skip 2 and stick with your headcanon.

1 comment:

  1. I was confused as heck by your spoilers until I realized you were talking about REC and REC 2 and not V/H/S and V/H/S 2 as I had initially thought. The latter two were better "found footage" movies, IMO, especially the second, which establishes in the framing story that the videotapes are proliferating because a supernatural effect that drives the people who watch them to collect more and to eventually make their own. Very Lovecraftian in a post-modern way. The best example of the genre, IMO, was Grave Encounters. The sequel had better effects but was flawed in comparison.