Film Review

[REC] 2

Review by Andy Chi Kit Wong
McMaster University

(Credits)

Vol. 14, No. 1 April 2010

[REC] 2

[1] [REC] 2 (2009) is a direct sequel to [REC] (2007) - a critically acclaimed and financially successful Spanish zombie film that was remade into the inferior Hollywood counterpart Quarantine (2008). Despite some pacing issues and the unfortunate lack of any particularly bondable characters, [REC] 2 is still one of the more entertaining zombie movies in recent years. For students of Religious Studies, it is also interesting to observe the film’s writers and co-directors attempt to re-inject religious themes into the myth of zombies, which has been largely stripped of their religious roots since George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead in 1968.

[2] [REC] tells the story of a group of people quarantined inside an apartment that is infested with flesh-eating zombies. Towards the end of the movie, two survivors make it to the top floor of the apartment and discover the origins of the zombies. Apparently, a Vatican agent was researching a virus that is associated with demon possession, but the research went awry and the virus became contagious, prompting the agent to seal off the female carrier of the virus inside the apartment’s top floor.

[3] The opening sequence of [REC] 2 takes place minutes following the conclusion of the first film. A SWAT team and a mysterious government agent who claims to be a disease control expert enter the apartment and are, predictably, attacked by zombies. As the story develops, the audience learns that the zombies are in fact possessed by demons and the character disguising as a disease expert is in fact a Vatican priest (!), whose goal is to retrieve a tube of blood that can “cure” demon possession. Since all the zombies are in fact demon-possessed, the priest is able to interrogate the demon within to discover the location of the blood. At the end of the movie, the demon outsmarts the priest by possessing a survivor from [REC] without turning her into a zombie. Thanks to its cunning tactics, the demon then walks out of the haunted apartment hiding inside the body of a seemingly innocent survivor.

[4] Zombie movies (e.g., 28 Days Later [2002]; 28 Weeks Later [2007]) and exorcism movies (e.g., The Exorcist [1973]; The Exorcism of Emily Rose [2005]) have different religious roots. Hollywood zombie movies first appear in the 1930s, often reflecting a conscious awareness of the Haitian voodoo origins of zombies. These zombies are depicted as mindless, walking corpses, reanimated through magical rituals of sorcerers/witches. For instance, White Zombie (1932)—commonly recognized as the first full-length zombie film—tells a tale of a Haitian voodoo master named Murder Legendre (Béla Lugosi) who commands a horde of zombie slaves. The exorcism movies, on the other hand, mostly have their roots in Christian traditions. The exorcists in both [REC] 2 and The Exorcist, for example, are Catholic priests who intimidate demons by wielding a crucifix and chanting Biblical passages. These two sub-genres of horror films (i.e., zombie movies and exorcism movies) hardly ever cross paths in the same movie, with the most notable exception being the popular Italian movie Dèmoni (1985) and its numerous sequels. In [REC] 2, however, these two distinct trends of horror films are interwoven into the plot. Since George Romero’s ground-breaking Night of the Living Dead (1968) and his subsequent movies (e.g., Dawn of the Dead [1978]; Day of the Dead [1985]), cinematic zombies have been “secularized”: they are severed from their overtly religious origins. Their existence is often explained in terms of a biological hazard instead of a voodoo ritual as in earlier movies. Therefore, it is quite refreshing to see a high-profile movie that firmly situates the origins of zombies in a religious context.

[5] Unfortunately, the merging of brain-dead zombies from voodoo traditions and cunning demons from Christian beliefs in [REC] 2 has resulted in some inconsistencies. While the zombies aimlessly wander in the apartment, the demon that possesses these same zombies exhibits outstanding intelligence and is determined to leave the building. It is difficult to resist the temptation to question why the demon has not made more effective use of the zombies instead of simply making them run havoc and eat human flesh. It could have been quite an achievement to seamlessly fuse together the concepts of zombies and demon possession, but unfortunately [REC] 2 has fallen short of the task. Perhaps such a task will require someone who can fully understand and appreciate the ramifications of the amalgamation of concepts that originated from distinct religious traditions.

FILM CREDITS
Dawn of the Dead Day of the Dead Dèmoni
The Exorcism of Emily Rose Exorist Quarantine
Night of the Living Dead

[REC]

28 Days Later
28 Weeks Later   White Zombie

 


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