SXSW 2012 Review: ‘[REC]3: Genesis’ Is a Shambling and Misguided Disappointment

[REC]3: Genesis

The zombie genre has a long way to go before it becomes as annoying as the vampire one, but it’s well on its way to becoming just as ubiquitous. Most of them fall by the wayside into a generic pile of body parts and walk/run arguments, but there are a few that stand out for their inventiveness, energy and pure terror.

Two of the best examples in recent years come courtesy of Spanish co-directors Jaume Balagueró and Paco Plaza. [Rec] and [Rec]2 tied the “found footage” trend to a zombie-like outbreak with both films consisting strictly of handheld (or helmet mounted) camera footage wielded by the characters themselves. They both take place in the same building and are ridiculously and wonderfully terrifying. (The zombie moniker is arguable as they most resemble the mindless ghouls from 28 Days Later, but just run with it. Or walk with it.)

The third film, Genesis, loses Balagueró’s involvement as Plaza takes on solo directing duties. Unfortunately, he at some point inexplicably decided the [Rec] films were lacking in laughs and felt he could rectify that here. He tries to infuse comedy into the story, and even though he fails repeatedly each stab at humor lessens any hope for the horror side of things.

Jokes fall flat. Terror, tension and fear are non-existent. And we quickly realize which half of the original directing duo held all the talent.

The action moves away from the previous films’ doomed apartment building to a grand hall where Clara (Letitia Dolera) and Koldo (Diego Martin) are celebrating at their wedding reception. Hundreds of guests mill about the hall and grounds dancing, drinking and having a jolly time. We see the action through the lens of the wedding photographer’s fancy HD rig but also through multiple handhelds being used by guests as the night wears on.

But when Koldo’s infected uncle arrives all hell breaks loose. The old man bites into his wife’s neck, sprays blood over other guests and is soon joined by more of the bloodthirsty killers. Clara and Koldo are separated, each with a small gaggle of fellow survivors, but they refuse to leave the premises until they find each other. The remainder of the film follows their efforts to reunite and survive the hungry horde.

The first clue that Plaza intends to sever some ties with the first two films comes when Koldo asks his camera-holding cousin why he’s still filming. He makes the teen drop the camera, and the screen fades before returning to a traditional movie look and feel. That break from the series’ format comes at the apparent cost of the claustrophobic tension exploited so well by its predecessors.

But that’s not the film’s biggest problem.

Plaza seems to be more inspired by films like Zombieland and Fido then by his own cinematic lineage. He infuses the film with multiple “funny” bits of action and dialogue, but they fail in two ways. Very few of them are actually humorous, and even more damaging they continually lighten the mood to levels not suitable for a horror film. Scenes that should be building the terror are instead deflated by a sight gag or an odd verbal exchange between characters. It’s disorienting and it doesn’t work.

On the bright and bloody side the movie does look good. Clara’s white wedding dress is stained crimson early on, and when she rips half of it to reveal an attractively garter-encircled leg the image becomes a striking one. The carnage is also well presented as bodies are torn apart, sawed in half and beheaded in arterial glory.

[Rec]3 is a complete failure as a [Rec] film, but to be honest if it was an unrelated stand-alone movie the issues may not have been so obvious or damaging. It’s fast moving and features a handful of thrills along the way, but even on its own terms it’s a minor affair. But as part of an ongoing and wholly terrifying universe it’s little more than a bloody disappointment.

The Upside: Some fun and bloody gore effects; image of the blood-stained bride is strong

The Downside: Complete tonal failure; never scary, creepy or unsettling; attempts at comedy are misguided failures more often than not

On the Side: Jaume Balagueró is taking the solo helm on [Rec]4: Apocalypse.

Grade: C-

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Rob is the Chief Film Critic of Film School Rejects. He doesn't eat cheese on weekdays.

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