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Originally published July 8, 2010 at 3:03 PM | Page modified July 10, 2010 at 7:34 AM

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Movie review

'[REC] 2': Zombie sequel zooms in on relentless mayhem

"[REC] 2," the innovative sequel to the 2007 horror hit "[REC]" (remade in America as "Quarantine"), follows a SWAT team into a quarantined apartment building where an alleged virus has turned those trapped inside into contagious, bloodthirsty zombies.

Special to The Seattle Times

Movie review 3 stars

'[REC] 2,' with Jonathan Mellor, Oscar Sánchez Zafra, Ariel Casas, Alejandro Casaseca, Pablo Rosso, Andrea Ros. Directed by Jaume Balagueró and Paco Plaza, from a screenplay by Balagueró, Plaza and Manu Díez. 84 minutes. Rated R for strong bloody violence, disturbing images and pervasive language. In Spanish with English subtitles. Varsity.

Shortly before seeing "[REC] 2," I had the pleasure of watching "Jaws" for the first time in a decade, and Steven Spielberg's 35-year-old classic provided a stark reminder that today's shock-meisters have almost completely forsaken the art of the slow build.

Forced to adapt to nightmarish production delays caused by a malfunctioning mechanical shark, Spielberg switched to a Hitchcockian strategy: Build tension and suspense through character and humor, and terrorize audiences by allowing their imaginations to intensify the threat of a mostly unseen monster.

You'll find none of that in "[REC] 2," which dispenses with slow-build subtlety in favor of relentless, gory action that starts intensely and never lets up. Forget about character development; the actors have nothing to do but run, scream, shoot guns and sustain a state of absolute panic.

The "Jaws" comparison is more of a lament than a complaint, however, because in its own way "[REC] 2" is a modest classic of its kind — namely, the kind of "point of view" videocam shocker that's been a horror staple since "The Blair Witch Project." In crafting a superior and innovative sequel to their 2007 horror hit "[REC]" (which spawned an obligatory American remake, "Quarantine"), Spanish co-directors Jaume Balagueró and Paco Plaza have delivered a zombie thriller that improves upon the stylistically similar "Cloverfield" while putting George Romero's recent "Survival of the Dead" to shame.

Picking up immediately where "[REC]" left off (the title refers to the "recording" symbol in a videocam viewfinder), "[REC] 2" follows a SWAT team into the quarantined apartment building where an alleged virus has turned those trapped inside into contagious, bloodthirsty freakazoids. Demonic possession is mentioned, but these lethal loonies are zombies, pure and simple. Blow their heads off and they die.

The SWAT guys have helmet-cams, allowing "[REC] 2" to employ multiple POVs, including another camera belonging to ill-fated trespassers, and the night-vision camera left over from "[REC]." Balagueró and Plaza make masterful use of this multicam strategy, and "[REC] 2" follows its own internal logic while maximizing the terror of a confined and creepy location.

The mayhem, efficiently maintained for a just-right 84 minutes, makes "[REC] 2" strictly for horror fans. Still, I would prefer the slow-build thrills of "Jaws," which had meat on its bloody bones compared with the empty calories of "[REC] 2" and its crimson-splattered brethren.

Jeff Shannon:

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