Studio: Sony Pictures
Director: Paco Plaza
Writer: Luiso Berdejo, Paco Plaza, David Gallart
Producer: Julio Fernandez
Stars: Leticia Dolera, Diego Martin, Alex Monner, Ismael Martinez
A wedding reception becomes a slaughter when a viral outbreak turns guests and family members into rabid zombies.
Few “found footage” films ever see a sequel. Until [REC], “Paranormal Activity” springs to mind as the only other mainstream one to even make it to a third installment. The reason for this cannot be due to money concerns. Part of found footage’s appeal for filmmakers is that the movies are cheap to churn out. And horror is a genre that has produced nine “Children of the Corn” films, eleven Puppet Masters, and put both Jason Voorhees and the Leprechaun into outer space. Fear of watering down a franchise has never been an issue either.
The creative reason stunting “found footage” films from turning into an evergreen series is that the concept is so limited, coming up with a viable follow-up idea takes infinitely more effort than thinking up the original one did. “Found footage” movies are mostly fast affairs with straightforward stories and simple scares. Follow that template too closely on a sequel and redundancy is inevitable. It is no accident that “Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2” and “The Last Exorcism Part II” both did away with the first-person format in trying to take their movies towards different styles.
[REC] co-creator Paco Plaza decides to take a similar approach with “[REC]3: Genesis.” No matter what, he and his series are in a predicament where one camp of fans or another is destined for disappointment. Tap into the same vein as the two predecessors and detractors will yawn that it is more of the same. Shift things too far in a brand new direction, and the chorus will come from complaints that the series’ spirit has been betrayed. [REC]3 opts for the second of those two options and, perhaps expectedly, rightfully earns those complaints about being something vastly dissimilar to the previous [REC] films.
With a subtitle like “Genesis,” it might seem as though [REC]3 would return to its roots with an origin story. In a way, it kind of does. Those who recall how the outbreak spread in the first movie will mutter “uh oh” when an elderly man explains a wound on his hand as having come from a dog who appeared dead before biting him. But according to a priest who delivers a homily of exposition, this “Genesis” has something to do with a religious connection to Judgment Day.
“[REC]3: Genesis” opens cleverly with a DVD menu presenting initial scenes as a wedding video for the film’s central couple, Koldo and Clara. That old man mentioned earlier is an uncle who is just one of the infected that literally crashes the post-ceremony reception to jumpstart the undead anarchy.
Around the same time that a family cousin filming the affair drops his camera, [REC]3 drops the “found footage” frame and transitions to traditionally shot horror entertainment. It takes the mind a moment to catch up with the handoff, making for an initial effect that is disorienting in a good way.
The problem is that it takes 20 minutes to get there, which is entirely too long for a movie that only runs 74 minutes without credits. That overlong first act is spent introducing a ton of wedding guests and family members, some of whom are never seen or heard from again. Not only do the “normal” festivities wear out their welcome, but there is a good deal of confusion over who [REC]3 means to establish as the main figures to focus on.
[REC] is at least partly responsible for a sustained interest in the “found footage” sub-genre. Abandoning the expected format for another one entirely is a gutsy dice roll for Paco Plaza. Regardless of effect, the creators are to be admired for taking a risk by going against the grain of a tested formula and chancing something unproven.
Yet the more controversial change is the one [REC]3 makes in tone. “Genesis” rips pages from the playbook of Peter Jackson’s pre-Oscar winning works to give itself a black comedy makeover that makes Sam Raimi fans proud, and [REC] diehards cringe. Some of the gags are genuinely funny. A climactic bit involving a hearing aid is hard to ignore as hilarious, even with teeth clenched over the not-so-serious take on [REC]’s mythos. But lump the comedic bent together with the new format, a new location, and new characters, and it leaves the question of, what exactly makes this [REC]?
Maybe [REC]3 would have played better with more of an advertised head’s up about all the ways it departs from the first two. It certainly would have left a better taste in the mouth had it not been associated with the [REC] franchise at all, since it only loosely is in the first place.
Even as its own separate thing, [REC]3 still comes across as a fairly typical zombie romp, complete with overdone beats including denying that a loved one has turned, severing a limb to prevent the spread of infection, and dozens of other horror tropes that can be had in movies without brackets in their titles. The gamble craps out, but thumbs up to Paco Plaza and the [REC] team for putting all their chips behind the line with an aim to reinvent their series before it goes stale. Too bad they rolled a seven.
Review Score: 65