Very rarely does a horror sequel come along that can measure up to the original. Even more rarely is a sequel that takes the series in a whole new unexpected turn for the better. "[Rec] 2" is that sequel. Directors Jaume Balagueró and Paco Plaza do a magnificent job with keeping the franchise frightening, fresh, effective and completely original.
First and foremost the dual directors have done a fabulous job of stepping back into the franchise and not missing a beat. The original [Rec] was shot in real locations with no built sets and returning to the same locations must have been difficult. From Balagueró and Plaza's direction you can't tell the difference. The new cast of actors return through the same halls, rooms and stairways and it comes across seamless. Furthermore their ability to bring back the characters we remember from the first movie is pulled off without a hitch.
[Rec] is obviously a horror franchise and all too often the sequels lose their edge. That is not the case with "[Rec] 2." The film is just as intense as the original, if not a little bit more, in a few high tension scenes. The triumph really comes from the one central location [Rec] takes place in. Balagueró and Plaza are able to build from the source material and host of characters simply adding scaffolding to what we already know. Everything we remember from the original film and within the building plays a part in the sequel. You remember certain rooms and locations from what previously happened in them easily raising the stakes.
Another major aspect why "[Rec] 2" works so well for me is the direction writers Jaume Balagueró and Manu Díez take the franchise. These guys take a huge leap of faith with the franchise and the pay off is well worth it. Trying to keep this review spoiler free I will not delve further into the particulars, but I absolutely loved the big reveal. Actually, saying there is a big reveal is already sort of a spoiler because, now you will be waiting for it. Sorry. I won't spoil it further outside of saying it happens early on and I can see the direction being off putting to some, but for me it is a blessing in disguise.
"[Rec] 2" returns to using the shaky handheld cam effect along with shadow play to heighten the tension and fear. It was also fairly ingenious of Balagueró and writer Manu Díez to pen in a SWAT team that is outfitted each with their own camera. So instead of only having the single camera in the original film, we now have multiple cameras and multiple personalities. Both of the [Rec] films do a solid job with shadow play for tension. Too often cinematographers will use a heavy hand and the result is just a bunch of wasted black footage. Here it is dark for a purpose and those moments work incredibly well.
Finally is exactly what I could have hoped for in a sequel. It raises the stakes from its predecessor and further serializes the story. It builds within its own franchise while also opening up new questions and directions for the tale. "[Rec] 2" also does what every franchise that wants to make further sequels has to do, it sucks you in for more. It allows the viewer to fully embrace the fact that this story is not over and there is much more to come.