How do you go about expanding on the first part of a story, with a new bunch of characters, but using exactly the same minimal location as before?
Simple answer really. You turn the concept on its head, combine the zombie and exorcism genres, and then hope for the best.
It’s a turn that I didn’t fully appreciate on my first viewing. Back then, I was a hardcore zombie nut, fearful of anything that moved away from the standard formula. How dare they do something different with their intellectual property!
I’ve learnt a lot in the intervening years, of course, so on second viewing I went in with less baggage. Subsequently I enjoyed the film much more.
So after the surprise ending of (REC) – no spoilers – we pick up immediately from a couple of new perspectives. The first group are an armed SWAT-style team, all wearing helmet cameras which expand on the “found footage” concept by showing multiple perspectives, sometimes all at the same time. Simple, yet effective. They go in to find out exactly what is happening inside, and discover much more than they expected.
The other group are a trio of teenagers that find a way inside the building (fools!) and just so happen to be filming their evening. This thread is introduced a little later into the story, but offers a shot in the arm to what could have easily become a repeat of the first film.
The canon is expanded by making the zombies a result of demonic possession instead of an infection. A priest is introduced (initially introduced as a medical expert) to help exorcise the demons, leading to some clever use of light and dark (and video camera night vision) in the final act. It also cleverly resolves most of the lingering questions from the first movie without ruining it after the fact.
As I said at the start of this review, I was initially skeptical about the use of religion in a zombie film. But then on reflection it’s something that works well and sets it apart from its genre brethren. The first person “video game shooter” approach aside, it is able to weave a heavy religious overtone into the blood covered carnage.
Other than these twists it is, in the best possible sense, more of the same. The action has a claustrophobic feel to it as we’re pushed down narrow corridors and walkways. The violence is hard hitting, occasionally surprising, and rife with moments that gore hounds will love. It barely takes a moment to breathe before moving onto the next action set piece, although those brief gaps are used to great effect.
Does it work as well as (REC)? No, because the familiar concept and setting have already been done before. But does it entertain? Yes. It expands on the world established in (REC) and develops its themes further, as a good sequel should.
In this instance, defining it as “more of the same but slightly different” isn’t actually a bad thing.