It’s hard to argue against [REC] and, to some extent, its insanely frenetic sequel being among the best found footage horror has to offer. Jaume Balaguero and Paco Plaza crafted two incredibly frightening and exciting horror films, thrusting them into the public eye; after the two films Balaguero went on to direct the festival darling Sleep Tight, while Plaza opted for the third installment in the [REC] series, subtitled Genesis.
[REC]3: Genesis is, ostensibly, a prequel, though clever placement of a television implies it’s set contemporaneously with the first film. Koldo (Diego Martín) and Clara (Leticia Dolera) are set to celebrate their union, captured in the now-familiar found footage aesthetic by Koldo’s cousin Adrian (Alex Monner) and Atun (Borla González Santaolalla), a wedding photographer. Interspersed with bits of footage from the camera of other attendees, the wedding goes off without a hitch until Adrian’s uncle, previously revealed to have been bitten by a dog, is overcome by the demonic virus explored in the first two films and the wedding turns into chaos.
It’s here where Plaza abandons the hand-held camera (in a clever nod to the common “Why are they still filming?” complaint) in favor of a traditional narrative that finds Koldo and Clara separated but determined to find each other. Koldo, accompanied by Adrian and others, escape from the kitchen through an air-conditioning vent while Clara remains held up with the priest in the control room. Here we get various glimpses of the chaos unfolding through CCTVs – the infected, seemingly hunting in packs, have taken over the ground of the huge mansion where the reception was held. Unlike their counterparts at the apartment building, they walk with an odd gait, lumbering around the estate like the undead. This an interesting choice by Plaza, who seems determined to make [REC]3 more a zombie film than a demonic possession film.
But it’s not a zombie film, a fact reaffirmed when the infected appear as demons in reflection. It’s an interesting touch in a film that bears little resemblance to its counterparts, both stylistically and in story; had the title not been [REC]3, you’d think you were watching a stand-alone film. The virus is the only connecting point, and while it’s suitable enough to keep within the [REC] mythology, it’s not enough to make it a tried and true [REC] film. As it stands, the association with its superior predecessors severely diminishes the impact it might otherwise have had.
When viewed through an isolated lens, however, [REC]3 is simply a fun film, filled with crazy characters brought to life by great actors. Through it all you can tell Plaza simply wanted to move away from the seriousness of the first two films and just have some plain ol’ fun. Children’s entertainer “SpongeJohn” spends the entire film in a giant round sponge costume while Koldo dons a suit of armor once belonging to a saint in order to traverse the courtyard and get to the main building where Clara is being held. It’s dumb fun, but Plaza makes it work in a way that may not be wholly unique, but it’s certainly entertaining.
Much is lost in the absence of found footage; the tension and terror found in the first two films is given a break in favor of lots and lots of gore, making it a decidedly different film. Those expecting anything like the first two will be disappointed, but Plaza, despite taking a different approach, created an incredibly fun movie, filled with plenty of humor and absurd violence to keep even the most jaded of horror fans satisfied.
Editors Note: Check out our review from the SXSW screening earlier in the year by Clicking Here. There are varying opinions, but both writers agree this is a must-see for those who are fans of the [REC] series of films!