2 out of 5 Cookies
I remember watching the movie [REC] blind – knowing nothing about it other than it was a Spanish language, hand-held camcorder movie of the Blair Witch pedigree. It was terrifying. All the more so because I had come to it free of any pre-conceived ideas about it – hadn’t even seen a trailer. I immediately endorsed it far and wide, this semi-unknown film which belongs in my personal pantheon of great horror movies. (Well, as far and wide as a virtually unknown dude from the Carolinas can endorse it – which means basically that I whole-heartedly recommended it to family and friends.) In fact, the only reason I’m taking time to write about the, by comparison, relatively mediocre [REC]3 Genesis is because the original is a 5 Cookie movie.
[REC] and its sequel [REC]2, take place in an apartment building under quarantine. The residents have become zombies. The conceit of the first movie is that it is shot by a camera man and his reporter who are doing a fluff piece on a fire station, and end up trapped in the building when accompanying the fire fighters on a call. The sequel takes place moments after the original ends and is shot from the perspective of swat team helmet cams, and also a group of teenagers who have snuck into the building. Not your typical zombie movies, as the plot unfolds there are religious and demonic overtones on par with the haunting ideas covered in the best possession films like The Exorcist.
For the record [REC] was remade and bastardized in an “American” version called Quarantine. Quarantine takes the same exact look and feel of [REC] and adds the English language and American actors for those too stupid to read, and too xenophobic to watch any film without U.S. citizens in the starring roles. Furthermore, it takes out all of the religious content lest a mixing of the zombie genre with anything else be too confusing. There should be an Oscar for turning greatness to shit in a single remake.
Quarantine also spawned a sequel, Quarantine 2, that has even less to do with the [REC] series and is pretty much simply zombies in an airport. An unabashed B-film it is currently available for free on Crackle.
But I digress, while [REC]2 isn’t as good as its predecessor it’s still a good horror film and works into the mythology, ideas and style set by the original.
The same cannot be said for [REC]3 Genesis. This sequel leaves the apartment building completely and instead begins the first-person conceit through the lenses of the cameras of a wedding videographer, as well as the handi-cams of various guests. In fact, the titles are intentionally corny slice-of-life still shots of the bride and groom as they were growing up, just like a real wedding video. There’s a lot of potential in the beginning and I had high hopes. We meet a wedding guest with a bandaged hand, a vet who explains that he was bitten by a dog, presumably from the first film, that he thought was dead… and then the camera pans to the other guests. Very sinister. ([REC] also spawned a comic book series, one episode of which deals with the fate of the infected dog in the first film, but it is in Spanish and, from what I can see, unavailable to order even from Amazon)
We know what’s coming, we just don’t know when. We go through the wedding and end up at the reception, where we are introduced to the bride and groom in earnest. And then the vet reappears. The first zombies begin their attack on the wedding guests. It’s a flurry of first person camerawork and gore. It is shortly after this that the movie turns into a “movie”. The first person perspective is jarringly abandoned, and we end up in an actual movie. Furthermore, it is a movie that doesn’t even take itself seriously. It becomes a horror/comedy.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m all for horror/comedies. Evil Dead 2 and Shaun of the Dead rank high on my list of near-perfect movies. My problem here is that this movie is a [REC] movie only in title. It shares little of the sheer zombie terror contained in the first two films, and instead relies on the gore for its thrills. (Not that I’m gore-sensitive, and in fact, a lot of the effects here, particularly in the 3rd act, are over the top and fun, but the [REC] series wasn’t the place for that sort of thing.) Furthermore, the haunting religious overtones brought by the originals, here become the subject of mockery. What this third installment brings to the series, not only has very little to do with the first two films, but seems to take away from them.
As an example of the horror/comedy genre [REC]3 Genesis is a fair movie. There are some funny parts to it and once you give yourself up to the bait and switch that’s occurred you will find a chuckle or two. For instance, the sly reveal of the suicide of the videographer, a man with an established appetite, the camera panning up from the empty wedding cake pan on the floor, past his slashed wrist, and up to his face, the remnants of the cake still on his lips.
[REC] is well on its way to being a contemporary cult horror classic; a film that few people have heard about, but that pays off big when they finally do. It took itself seriously. To throw all of that out in favor of some cheap jokes seems – I don’t know – cheap. The producers could have made this film and just called it Zombie Wedding. But that would go against what they learned in Marketing 101 wouldn’t it?
As a side note, I couldn’t help but notice that both [REC] and [REC]2 were written by Jaume Balagueró and co-directed with him by Paco Plaza. In this regrettable entry Balagueró isn’t listed at all, but Plaza has both directing as well as a writing credit. I guess we know who had most of the talent in that duo. (Hint: Its not Plaza)
I’ve seen internet rumors that [REC]4 is in the works. Honestly, I hope they just let it go if they don’t bring Balagueró back on board.
[REC]3 Genesis is currently streaming on Amazon Prime, free for prime members.