‘[Rec]’ softens us up with a gentle prologue in which the crew of a late-night ‘reality TV’ show called ‘While You’re Sleeping’ – invisible cameraman Pablo and presenter Angela (Manuela Velasco) – make a late-night visit to a fire station. Then comes a call about an old woman trapped in her apartment. When a policeman and two firemen, Manu (Ferran Terraza) and Alex (David Vert), break into the apartment, they are attacked by a shrieking, zombie-like woman in a blood-stained nightdress. Suddenly, the building is locked down by cops squawking something about a health threat. Trapped inside with the panicking neighbours, Angela keeps up a running commentary.
The less you know about what happens next the better. Suffice it to say that nothing in the previous work of joint directors Jaume Balagueró and Paco Plaza prepared us for the nerve-shredding intensity of the ensuing scenes. A brilliantly staged early scare signals that the safety rails are off and, despite an unexpected, last-minute swerve into the supernatural realm, the edge-of-the-seat tension is sustained to the very last second.