Roll shaky handheld camera on the third instalment of Jaume Belagueró and Paco Plaza's found-footage horror series, a prequel that trades the scratchy terror of its predecessors for hit-and-miss body shocks. This time a demonic virus has taken hold at the wedding reception of Clara (Leticia Dolera) and Koldo (Diego Martin). The conceit that made the franchise is the first to cop it, as camcorders are trampled under foot; still, there's just enough Braindead-style satire to keep the blood up. The dancefloor's full of bodies, the bride and groom have been backed into a corner by relatives desperate for their pound of flesh. Pretty much your average wedding, then.
REC 2 is to REC what The Godfather: Part II is to The Godfather, building on perfection to a level that seemed unattainable. I’ve never watched a horror franchise conjure such an engrossing and mysterious story while also delivering legitimate horror scares, all surrounded with a frenzied survivalist energy. Yes, the REC movies hold a special place in this horror lover’s collection.
Continuing the terrifying trajectory of my beloved REC franchise, Balagueró and Plaza decided to split directing the last two planned REC films amongst each other. No longer would the collaborators pool ideas, instead each telling one specific story of the continuing - or simultaneous, depending how you look at it – outbreak. Still, without an official update on Balagueró’s upcoming disaster piece REC 4: Apocalypse, the spotlight is shining directly on Paco Plaza’s story of love in the time of zombies, or, REC 3: Genesis.
Right off the bat, Plaza makes a risky, yet vocal, decision by abandoning the formerly utilized first person camera style. Not only did Paco state he wanted REC 3: Genesis to exist as a separate entity, but in the final product, it’s clear the director was able to show his individualism.
We’re still treated to the format with some wedding ceremony footage shot by a professional filmographer in cinema verité style, but when shit hits the proverbial fan, Koldo snaps us back into reality with a far more traditional approach. I’ve heard all too many times complaints along the lines of “why would people keep filming while being chased by zombies” as a criticism aimed towards either original REC film. Paco Plaza must have heard those grumblings too, opting to embrace the cinematic beauty that is our beloved third person “fly on the wall” filmmaking.
While Plaza doesn’t disappoint in setting up both vicious and visually appealing sequences (playing with newfound effects like slow motion and quick cuts), some of the intensity found in each original film seems to have been lost. No longer was I sitting on edge of my seat or darting my eyes fervently around the screen, instead I found myself just comfortably watching our characters trying to avoid becoming another shambling undead soldier. The found footage angle was exploited so masterfully by both directors on the previous go-arounds and the switch back to normality dulled down the entire zombie affair.
It’s become commonplace to bash Hollywood remakes of foreign properties, but in the case of the [REC] films, the original deservedly has outlived its imitator. American audiences may remember that [REC] was adapted into 2008’s box office hit Quarantine. And while that film was a success, it failed to develop into its own franchise – with the exception of a direct-to-video sequel.
Conversely, the makers of the [REC] series already have plans for a fourth and final film in the pipeline. Reportedly titled [REC] 4: Apocalypse, it’s easy to figure out why – with a subtitle like that – there might be nowhere else for the franchise to go. In the meantime, it’ll be interesting to see if this third entry makes the same splash as the first two, despite multiple changes to the franchise’s aesthetic.
REC 3: Genesis fails to even address evil puppeteer Niña Medeiros, save a quick mirror shot here and there. Her presence is hinted at, but missing again was the “wow” factor that should have been in place to further the demon’s backstory and her motives for senseless killing. Plaza dances dangerously close to creating a Quarantine 2: Terminal copy-cat, simply offering a different location to inflate the body count.
But hell, I still had a blast with what Plaza delivered. Koldo and Clara’s love subplot explored a unique dynamic often tested in horror films, putting a couple’s true love through an excruciating test. Call me old fashion, but watching lovestruck newlyweds slice through infected flesh-eaters just warms my tender little heart.
Leticia Dolera gave a phenomenal horror performance as bridezilla Clara, transforming from elegant doll to heroine with the swipe of a chainsaw. With maschera running down her face, Clara almost appears as a superhero killing machine while hunting for Koldo. Dolera’s changing emotions were believable throughout the film, doing a bang-up job conveying either terror or ferocity though her expressive face, portraying real fear along with intensity.
While consistent terror may have been lacking, Plaza made sure to indulge heavily in gore, soaking our white wedding with buckets of blood. Getting inventive with kitchen materials and medieval weaponry, the film certainly didn’t lose any of the signature thrills and fun of the franchise (and mixed with cooky wedding music made for a strangely rewarding combination). The infected may not have been trying to bite through your screen this time, but they certainly still take a pretty big chunk out of our cast.
The action now takes place miles away from the original location and partly in broad daylight, giving the film an entirely fresh yet disturbing new reality. The infection has left the building. In a clever twist that draws together the plots of the first two movies, this third part of the saga also works as a decoder to uncover information hidden in the first two films and leaves the door open for the final installment, the future '[REC] 4 Apocalypse.'
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Characters are playing roles as:
Leticia Dolera is playing as Clara
Javier Botet is playing as Niña Medeiros
Diego Martín is playing as Koldo
Àlex Monner is playing as Adrián
Carla Nieto is playing as Rebeca Viñas
Claire Baschet is playing as Natalie
Ismael Martínez is playing as Rafa
Ana Isabel Velásquez is playing as Wendy
Borja Glez. Santaolalla is playing as Atún (as Sr. B)
Mireia Ros is playing as Menchu
Aitor Legardón is playing as Primo
Xavier Ruano is playing as Cura
Emilio Mencheta is playing as Tío Víctor
Blai Llopis is playing as Quiquín