There are two movies in [Rec] 3: Genesis. The first is a standalone horror comedy that delivers on multiple fronts, and the second is a third entry in a franchise that comes off as the red-headed step-child. For what it’s worth, the horror film from director Paco Plaza (who pulls duties on this one while directing partner Jaume Balaguero makes the fourth installment) is incredibly satisfying even with its uneven shifts from absurd monster comedy to genuine pee-inducing fear, but aimed squarely at those who first went into the apartment building of [Rec] and were brave enough to return, this movie is bound to be a head-scratcher.
The main reason, as Plaza explains himself, is that he wasn’t content to deliver exactly on expectations anymore. After a sequel that came off an assembly line with a few added specs, [Rec] 3 is a drug dealer giving confetti to junkies showing up for crack cocaine.
A gamble, definitely, but past the whining buyer’s remorse, it’s a fun if slight horror flick that gets a lot of things right.
First of all, Plaza plays with the knowledge the audience has from the first film with an unflinchingly pleasant opening where family and friends gather outside a church to celebrate the upcoming union of Clara (Leticia Dolera) and Koldo (Diego Martin). The over-eager Adrian (Alex Monner) is capturing the entire thing on camera, including a moment where his uncle flatly explains that a dog at his vet clinic bit him. Not a big deal. Nothing to worry about.
Just about everything in [Rec] 3 is this smart. Plaza leaves bread crumbs along the path for fans to pick up, but more so than that, he rests large amounts of tension and anticipation on the audience’s ability to digest them. A spotlight is never shined on anything, which is refreshing in a world of horror where you can practically see the spoon coming at your face on the screen. This sentiment extends to Plaza’s sly toying with found footage which sees the picture shift from a handycam to a high-def professional set up on a steady mount, breaking the fourth wall as if to question why they need a reason for it all to come through a camera in the first place. Instead of lazily converting a good idea into found footage, it’s a director who made a name in the subgenre proving he doesn’t give a bloody stump about its constraints.
On that front, it might be easy to see this film as a bit aggressive toward its audience. It’s almost a rebellion – a perfectly good movie that has the wrong title attached to it. Bluntly put, this just doesn’t belong in the [Rec] family, but like most black sheep, there’s a lot to love and to misunderstand.
For example, while the scares are big and relentless when they happen, the most soaring aspect of this horror film is its romance. Clara and Koldo are incredibly endearing characters trying to find each other amid chaos and collar bone-eating reception guests. Dolera plays her role with an impossible blend of sweet and lowdown while Martin is a perfect supporting actor, giving a gentleman’s dedication to making his partner look as good as possible. Koldo and Clara are both idealists – somehow “knowing” that the other is still alive even when they have no way of really knowing. They’re Romero and Juliet.
The biggest issue is that Plaza has difficulty shifting between treating zombie moments with intensity and with slapstick. The emotional ping pong of tension and release doesn’t work quite well, but it’s important to note that the climax maintains its impact despite an unsteady second act. It’s definitely enjoyable, not least of all for seeing Clara rip off her train, start up a chainsaw and get down to business. At the very least, Plaza has done a great job by taking a perfectly passable horror/romance/comedy and used it to obliterate expectations for [Rec]: Apocalypse.
The Upside: Some great scares, solid wacky comedy, and a heartfelt love story set amongst the brain-hungry
The Downside: Scares are muted by the uneven tone and it doesn’t feel like a [Rec] movie at all
On the Side: The events of this movie happen at the same time as the first film – there’s even footage of a news reporter outside an apartment building that’s been sealed off at one point.