Till’ death do us part…
When I first stumbled upon REC back in 2007, it was love at first bite. Directors Jaume Balagueró and Paco Plaza not only revolutionized found footage zombie films, even putting undead legend George A. Romero to shame (looking at you Diary of the Dead), but they followed the film up with an even more enthralling sequel.
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.
Abandoning the familiar quarantined apartment building which housed both REC movies so far, Plaza decides to spread his infection outwards onto a large, unsuspecting wedding reception. Poor Koldo (Martín) and Clara (Dolera) believe nothing can spoil their celebration of undying love, until infected hellspawns storm the party grounds and start turning guests into chow. Amidst the chaos, our bride and groom get separated and are left to fight through a horde of wedding crashers with an evil agenda.
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.
While we’re on negatives, I should also discuss the lack of movement in the REC story development. REC 2 changed the game by introducing deeply-rooted religious horror as a way to explain the infection, turning the original REC into a completely different movie in retrospect. The story twist goes down as one of my all time favorite shock moments concerning the whole horror genre, hands down.
What Plaza fails to do this time is introduce some type of new and dangerous element to the REC saga, instead he simply banks off established themes. I hate to use the term rehash, but 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.
Diego Martín on the other hand plays the chivalrous groom Koldo, who brings his own brand of heroism to the proceedings. I chuckled at Plaza’s literal interpretation of the phrase “knight in shinning armor,” as Koldo actually dons a coat of arms while running to save his wife.
When our lovebirds finally reconnect they share a warm fuzzy moment of elation, embracing at last after laying waste to countless party goers, and a sense of fulfillment is reached (even though it seems the zombies stopped their assault just long enough to give them proper time for a heartfelt exchange).
Sure, when hell breaks loose the infected foes are running full speed and chomping at the bit for a quick snack, but when the love story needs a minute to flourish our dead-heads watch in awe? I highly doubt over the course of REC 3: Genesis our demonic beings developed human empathy, but it was darn nice of them considering our character’s whole impending doom thing.
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.
By reading other reviews around the interwebs, it looks like my opinion of REC 3: Genesis is a little more generous than others. When all is said and done though, even when fully acknowledging its flaws and underdeveloped ideas, one can still find loads of fun rampaging through Plaza’s party grounds.