Title: [REC]³ Génesis
Directed By: Paco Plaza
Starring: Leticia Dolera, Diego Martín, Àlex Monner, Emilio Mencheta, Ismael Martínez, Claire Baschet
It’s hard to believe that with the amount of saturation of found footage movies flooding our theaters in recent years, that there was a time when the filmmaking style was something to be considered “unique”. We all have The Blair Witch Project to blame/thank for that resurgence when it was released in 1999, but another recent example would be the claustrophobic zombie-esque movie [REC] from Spain. If you’re thinking that a group of people quarantined inside a building by the military in a found footage style is gimmicky, you might be right, which might be why that film isn’t even 80 minutes long. The frantic, fast-paced movie improved on The Blair Witch Project’s stumbling around in the woods with very deliberate and genuine reactions to an insane situation. As if [REC] wasn’t successful enough, then came [REC]2, which is a rare example of a sequel that’s even better than the original. Rather than recreating the same scenario from the first film in this installment, [REC]2 is more like Halloween II or The Descent: Part 2, with sequel taking place immediately following the events of the first film. Considering [REC]2 followed not just the military who infiltrated the building, but also a group of young kids who have snuck in just to see what was going on, it’s easy to see how the film is a heightened version of the original, not to mention learning more about the nature of the disease. With the first two films accomplishing so much, and after one of the original writer/directors leaving the franchise, how can anything new or inventive be achieved with [REC] 3 – Genesis?
The film starts with a DVD menu and we see some unknown individual selecting the cliche slideshow of the story of two people in love, which is when the film cuts to the family videos of the wedding. Clara (Leticia Dolera) and Koldo (Diego Martín) are getting married, but as everyone who has willing started watching this movie knows, it’s only a matter of time before things go terribly and there’s a rage-zombie infestation. When we see Koldo’s uncle with a bandage on his hand after claiming to be bitten by a dog, we know who to watch through these home movies and what to watch for. When we see the uncle puking because he of how drunk he is, the viewers know it’s not just that, and soon enough, there’s Uncle Victor (Emilio Mencheta) biting a woman’s neck and puking blood over everyone and then we’re off to the races. In the bedlam, Clara and Koldo become separated, but the two cameras stay with Koldo as he’s trapped in the kitchen. Koldo questions why the official wedding videographer as to why he’s filming everything, and his answers only anger Koldo, so he grabs the camera, smashes it on the ground, and then the title “[REC]3 – GENESIS” comes on screen.
THANK YOU, KOLDO! Okay, not technically Koldo, but thank you writer/director Paco Plaza, for coming to terms with the fact that there’s only so many stories that can be told through found footage and that despite that giving him success, he’s willing to cast aside those restrictions to try something new. I can’t think of anything that causes audiences to moan and groan when a trailer comes on screen more than the implication of found footage or the words “Based on a True Story”, except for maybe the involvement of M. Night Shyamalan. For as interesting and refreshing as it once was to see found footage movies, the success of films like The Blair Witch Project, [REC], and the Paranormal Activity movies have taken away the spectacle of horror movies and allowed everyone to quickly, cheaply, and poorly to make a horror movie. This isn’t to say that found footage movies can still be effective, but in the current horror community, these gems are few and far between. Everything that follows in the movie is of a completely different style and completely different tone than what Plaza gaines success and notoriety with in the first place, and whether you did or didn’t enjoy what followed, I think we should all agree that it was a bold move on his part.
I would say there are two types of scares utilized in the previous movies to get a reaction to the viewer, and both types are used successfully. One scare is the jump scare, which involves characters jumping from out of nowhere or yelling or whatever it is, that startles you, and when you realize what just scared you, you can’t help but laugh at how silly it was to laugh at the absurdity of it. The other type of scare is the ever-present sense of dread, where you can see what the threat is and where the victim is and you know it’s just a matter of time before the victim runs out of hiding places. [REC]3 decided to completely do away with those more long-term scares, and focused completely on the startle scares, but considering it’s a sequel, and sequels typically heighten an aspect of the previous installments, that absurdist method of scares is heightened to such a degree that the entire film feels more like Army of Darkness or Dead Alive more than it feels like a [REC] movie. I can see people being disappointed that they were expecting something similar to what they knew and love, but when you have an original writer/director at the helm, you have to understand that this is a universe that they came up with, and a universe that they get to shape as they see fit. If Plaza felt that this was the natural escalation of the universe, who are we to say he’s wrong? Granted, we don’t have to at ALL like where he went, but to have a negative opinion of a movie when compared to the movies that came before it doesn’t give the filmmakers, actors, or the entire film itself any justice.
Considering Clara and Koldo are separated, the rest of the movie is spent with these two characters try to find one another. Their sweet and charming relationship, which we got to watch for the first 20 minutes, actually makes the viewer want to see them get back together. Maybe it’s Dolera’s giant doe-eyed glances, or Martín’s goofy yet endearing celebrations on his wedding day, but these two actors, who spend much of the movie separate, really established themselves as more than just fodder for quasi-zombies to tear through. But don’t worry guys, there are PLENTY of things that get torn through and to a crowd-pleasing degree. From tire irons to swords to chainsaws, the gore is taken much further than the previous films and through using more traditional filmmaking techniques, these scenes are given the justice (and lighting) they deserve.
Despite all of the movie’s strengths, there’s still a hint of “What if?” had the more horrific aspects of the first two films had been continued in this installment. Even though [REC]3 is a surprisingly fun horror-themed comedy, it still plays more as a comedy for a horror crowd, and with comedy being subjective, it’s hard to say if everyone would enjoy those comedic moments as much as I did. Although, given this installment in the franchise being quite the departure from expectations, it only opens up the door for how many other installments there can be that take place at the same time, in different locations, with different scenarios, with different themes and styles of filmmaking. As long as you don’t have any preconceived notions, [REC]3 – Genesis is a fun ride that builds excitement for the next installment, but none of the scares stick with you.
By Patrick Cavanaugh (Thewolfmancometh.com)