[REC] 2 Heart Monitor Challenge

The Challenge
To watch a horror film while hooked up to a heart monitor to test how scared you really are.

The Participants
One Love Horror reviewer (that’s me) and one unwitting competition winner.

The Film
[REC] 2
. The sequel to the Spanish nerve shredder [REC]; the movie which took camcorder horror to the next level upping the anti on The Blair Witch Project, receiving rave reviews and spawning a Hollywood remake – Quarantine.

Putting you right back in the action with the same first-person perspectives and documentary style, [REC] 2 promises more scares, more gore and more tension than the first movie – all of which makes it the perfect film for this eerie experiment.

As I strutted the London streets to the screening room I was feeling strangely nervous. Having faced literally hundreds of horror films (some terribly terrifying, others so unscary all that they caused was laughter) I was oddly apprehensive about the experiment.
As much as we fain bravado in the face of our fears convincing ourselves and other we aren’t scared, our bodies know the truth. Fear creates primal and instinctual reactions beyond intellectual analysis and having your heart monitored reveals those for all to see.
Was I a fearless lion or a cowardly kitty-cat? And how would my fellow human, Love Horror competition winning, horror guinea pig fair in this terror test?

By her own admission the answer was ‘not very well’ for as she admitted when we first arrived “I don’t ever watch horror films”.
It appeared that our competition winner, whose name was Asma, (unlike our site) did not ‘love’ horror at all, and had in fact entered not realising the true extent of what she had volunteered for.
She didn’t have any phobias as such, but she confessed to being a nervous person, prone to freaking herself out.
“I was at my gym which is one of those trendy new ones converted from a church,” Asma told me, smiling as she spoke “and I was all alone at the pool, which was all lit up with those blue lights. I got in and started swimming, but I had to get back out because I started thinking Jaws is gonna get me”.
Finding it hard to remember the last scary film she saw, she finally recalled that it was Shaun of the Dead and when I asked her if she knew anything about the movie that we were about to see, she shock her head in apprehension.
I smiled back knowingly. Not only was this now a battle of the sexes, but a match up of a gore lover versus a horror hater.

The lovely PR lady got our attention to give us instructions on how to fit the heart monitors. My previous visions of having my chest shaved and electrodes attached to a giant beeping machine, like in all the hospital shows I had even seen, were shattered as she held up two plastic black belt-looking devices. They were the new, hi-tech heart monitors that we would be wearing. “You put them on like a bra” she casually told us, to which I uncomfortably and sarcastically retorted, “Well I won’t have any problems then will I!”
Asma and I disappeared into separate bathrooms and I began a long and losing battle, trying to work out how the hell to put the damn thing on.
After a lot of trouble, many moments of panic (that maybe I had no heart beat at all) and several indecent exposures of my hirsute un-toned chest to the PR girl, it was finally working. By now Asma, who had no trouble with the monitor at all, was sitting comfortably, waiting for the film to start and I was stressed out and self-conscious which can’t have helped my heart rate any.

The lights dimmed, the screen lit up and [REC] 2 started to roll.

The Experience
Kicking off where the last film left off, this screamer of a second part throws you straight into the action.
A SWAT team equipped with video cameras on their helmets prepares to enter the infected apartment block; I was instantly captivated, the perpetual point-of-view shots, which slap you straight bang in the middle of the action, upped the tension and amplified the horror. Especially when you throw in a whole horde of blood thirsty infected crazies attacking you from all angles.

It’s a thrill ride of a film, and I felt as if I was in a survival horror video game, except it was much more real and I had no control over it, which made it all the more monstrous.
Unsure of how my heart was handling it, I knew my head was loving every minute: from the intense opening, the first few nasty and unexpected attacks, the haunted house jumps… Right through to the final face-off, which utilises the camcorder brilliantly, bringing in a whole other element of fear.
On the several occassions that I looked over at Asma, I wasn’t so sure she was enjoying the experience as much as me. Her face, which I could only half make out in the darkness of the cinema, had a look of panic across it – which I could clearly identify on the few occasions that she took her hands away from her eyes.
However how could I truly tell how both our hearts held up during the film? Only the results could reveal the truth.

The Results
As you can see from the below graphs, both our monitors show some massive spikes during the same moments of the movie. At the start, both our graphs show the high heart rates and the terrifying tension brought about by the atmospheric opening. Without revealing too many details of the movie, both of us also spiked early on at an especially nasty moment involving killer kids appearing out of nowhere.

As the film moved on, my heart rate gradually dropped down to a lower, more relaxed level. Meanwhile, Asma remained scared the whole way through, showing a much higher heart rate throughout, with more spikes and dips on a higher level than mine.

Oddly, one moment reversed that trend, when midway through a creepy little girls voice prompted my rate to rise while Asma barely reacted to it. Perhaps it was because I could guess what was coming or maybe I have a phobia of creepy children. Either way Asma handled it much better than I did.
Obviously as the film climbed back up towards the inevitable creepy conclusion, both our heart rates rose, Asma especially, registering a massive spike when the movie ends with one last scare – just as all great horrors should.

The Aftermath
Meeting Asma outside the cinema she was obviously still trying to get over the whole experience. “I kept looking over at you, and you where laughing” she exclaimed “you looked like you where on a night out in the pub or something”. I laughed and asked her which bit had scared her most, she replied that she was hiding for most of the film so couldn’t really say.
The creepy kids had given her one of the biggest frights, but the whole thing had freaked her out “I hate all that funny eyes and possession stuff” she said. A
nd the realism of the whole film coupled with her personal religious faith had made it much much worse, “As a Muslim we believe in possession” she told me “all of that is very real to us”.
Thankfully the whole experience hadn’t left her traumatised in the long term, and she had thoroughly enjoyed herself.
As we walked back to the tube I thanked her for taking part and more importantly, for being a scardy cat and making my results look good.

The Conclusion
So what does all this prove? Well it proves that although we may not feel scared, our bodies are reacting to fear without us even knowing it.
It proves that even if you do watch bucket loads of blood, brains and body bags and monster movies every month, you can still get scared – although not as petrified as someone as uninitiated to the undead as Asma was.

Most importantly it proves [REC] 2 is one hell of a horror film. And although you may not be able to go to your local hospital and borrow a heart monitor beforehand, just make sure to see this movie and test your self against the terror.

[Rec] 2 is out in cinemas across the country on May 28th.

In the meantime, why not turn yourself into a zombie with Get Rec’d


Alex Humphrey

Alex studied film at the University of Kent and went on to work for Universal Pictures in their Post Room gaining an inside look at the movie industry from the very bottom. Constantly writing reviews in everything from local magazines to Hip Hop sites Alex honed his critical skills even spending a brief period as a restaurant critic. Read more

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