As with the majority of zombie films made today, the makers of [REC] 3 are keen to point out that their film isn’t a zombie movie. And they’re right, of course, [REC] mythology has always specialised in something far greater, but we’re still talking about ravenous dead guys taking chunks out of their next unhappy meal, so you’ll forgive me for labelling this a zombie fix.
In case you’ve been living in an abandoned apartment complex for the past five years, the [REC] films play out in much the same way as the early entries of the Alien saga. The first film is very claustrophobic, tightly constructed and dripping in tension, much like Ridley Scott’s original entry in the Alien franchise. [REC] 2 plays out in similar fashion but ups the ante with extra firepower and more attention to action. It’s also in many ways the superior picture. Thankfully that’s where comparisons end. [REC] 3 shares nothing in common with Alien 3, in fact some might argue it’s the polar opposite.
Alien 3 took us into darker, more forsaken territory, whereas [REC] 3 – a film that runs parallel to the original movie in the series – is happy to drown itself in colour, joviality and the occasional chainsaw massacre. Paco Plaza (driving solo on this one with collaborator Jaume Balaguero focusing on the fourth and final chapter) makes a brave decision with Genesis, dropping the first person perspective early on in favour of a more traditional approach. It’s a move that has already upset the hardcore faithful, but you have to respect the guy for trying to keep things fresh.
Paco calls [REC] 3: Genesis an adventure movie, but in all honesty, that’s a bit of a stretch. At its heart [REC], 3 shares more in common with romantic comedies, but don’t let that put you off. If red is the colour of love there’s plenty of it to go around here. It positively oozes from the screen at times. Koldo (Diego Martin) and Clara (Leticia Dolera) are made for each other and they plan to celebrate their marriage surrounded by their nearest and dearest, but a black cloud is looming overhead. On the happiest day of their lives all hell is breaking loose, and more importantly, it’s threatening to ruin Clara’s big day.
As I mentioned earlier, [REC] 3 starts in much the same way as its siblings. One of the guests records the ceremony with a handheld camera and we get to know the main characters pretty well. More importantly – considering what’s about to transpire over the next fifty minutes – we’re able to form a bond with our two libidinous leads. Martin and Dolera are incredibly infectious here, and you will care about their plights as the film races to its gluttonous climax. Which is a good job really, because in adding layers of comedy to the mix, [REC] 3 all but loses its sense of fear and tension. You can’t really blame the change of style, even if the first person approach has always been a great source of anxiety, but [REC] 3 embraces the absurdity of life with glee, and much of the terror is lost along the way.
The biggest disappointment for me was the fact that it failed to add anything new to the franchise. [REC] 3 seems content with taking a step back when it should have been racing forward. There are no great developments and no major revelations. In fact, at its heart, [REC] 3 is a very traditional ‘zombie’ movie. Part two in particular felt more substantial, adding religious subtext to the mix and hinting at a greater evil. There’s a throwaway conversation in Genesis that picks at the same themes – and reflections in the mirror tell of darker days to come – but Plaza is happy to leave the ‘bigger picture’ to Balaguero in part 4 (fittingly entitled Apocalypse). Telling the viewer to lower expectations before going into this feels like a cop out, but if you’re coming into [REC] 3 with major plot developments in mind, Paco Plaza’s lightweight solo effort is likely to frustrate.
Which is a shame because [REC] 3 is still a highly enjoyable horror movie – bloody heroines, merciless beheadings and knights in shining armour serve up an un/welcome change of pace for this hugely successful franchise. On it’s own terms, Genesis is a comical, colourful ‘zombie’ movie with a welcome dose of romance. As the highly anticipated latest chapter of the [REC] series however, Genesis feels like a hasty bridesmaid clambering for the bouquet – desperately shallow and way past her prime. Having said that, few would dispute the power of a woman proclaiming, “This is my day!” Especially when she’s brandishing a high-powered chainsaw.
Suffering the same fate as many third instalments, [REC] 3 pales in comparison to the films that preceded it. Fortunately for us, it’s still a rollicking horror comedy, so leave your expectations at the door and enjoy the ride. AW