Film Review: [REC] 3: Genesis
Review by Marc Patterson
[REC] 3 opens on a subdued, and even festive note. It’s the wedding day of Clara (Leticia Dolera) and Koldo (Diego Martin). Families have arrived to the church in gala style and everything appears simply as perfect as the beautiful bride. Vows are exchanged and the reception is well underway before things begin to go horribly awry, and when they do go awry they go ugly in a big way, and fast. It’s Koldo’s uncle that comes to the party infected. He brushes it off as a bad cold, but his conditions worsen quickly through the course of the wedding. By the time the reception is in full swing he’s been consumed by the demons and after nearly falling to his death, rises to take a big chunk of flesh out of a family member, while everyone stares in shocked horror. In the maelstrom that quickly ensues (as you can well imagine) Clara and Koldo become separated and we watch on, eyes wide, as they battle to stay alive, find each other, and come to terms with the surrealistic reality crashing down around them.
Let’s just come out with it: Fans of this series are likely to have mixed reactions to Paco Plaza’s sidebar entry. In this film Plaza intentionally takes a drastic departure from the shooting and storytelling style that has thus far defined this series, as well as set the series apart in modern horror cinema. Genesis is incongruent in both spirit and style to the [REC] mythos, and though executed with technical competence just doesn’t feel right to this reviewer. Gone are the subtle chills, and white-knuckle moments of dread. Instead, Plaza sets the action in the daytime, uses traditional shooting techniques, dismissing the verite styling of previous films. He makes it loud, brash, gory, and even humorous at parts. All things you’d never expect from a [REC] film.
Ultimately [REC] Genesis is the equivalent of watching Army of Darkness after Evil Dead 2. Can you enjoy it? Yes. But they don’t really fit well together. Years ahead of us, when these films are remembered, they will be remembered for part one and part two; which further begs the question, what the hell is Juame going to do with Apocalypse? I have to ask aloud, should this series have been ended on a high note at the credits of part two? My critical response is simple: very likely. If Paco wanted to return to traditional filmmaking then he should have told a different story and made a stand alone film. He certainly has the popularity and fan base to pull it off, and I suppose that now he has his calling card.
However, there is an argument to be made that in fact Plaza did make a different film, that Genesis is exactly that – a splattery, gore-soaked extravaganza, filled with style and panache. In case you took my criticism above the wrong way, please understand that I thoroughly enjoyed this film. I loved it in the same way that I love Army of Darkness. But to stay with the analogy, Army of Darkness isn’t an Evil Dead film any more than [REC] Genesis is a proper [REC] film.
Enough of that though. I’ve made my point. Let’s get back to the film that’s in front of us and judge it within the framework of its opening and closing credits. Leticia Dolera, where have you been all of my life? Miss Dolera gives a winning performance as the bride Clara. I would, without hesitation, include her on my list of favorite brides in horror. Here’s why: First off, you believe in her character. She shows a range of emotion and ability. She’s frightened, confused and then finally pissed off and vengeful. She even has room in an otherwise tension laden scene for some snark as she tosses a quip at a female guest discovered fucking one of the groomsmen: “and then you wonder why everyone thinks French girls are sluts.” It’s a perfectly timed moment of levity that shows that humor can have its proper place in a fright-filled gore-flick. Second, Clara – as a character – isn’t relegated to some second-hand subservient role. She’s the star attraction. The men around her are vulnerable, and left without weapons. They’re weak at worst and comical at best. Whereas, opposite to them, she wields a chainsaw and beats down hordes of demon possessed party-goers like they are yesterday’s news. This is her day, goddammit, and she’s not letting anyone ruin it! How can you not fall in love with her?
Then – I have to give huge respect to Paco for using tons of practical effects. There’s buckets of blood gone to good use in this film. Everyone is going to be doused in red. And while I noticed at least one gore gag executed in a less than perfect manner (a body chainsawed in two actually splits open before the blade cuts its swath), you’d have to be a bit of a jerk to split hairs over it (pun intended). I’d much rather see a dozen imperfect practical effects than to see the misuse of CGI even once.
What Paco Plaza has done here is to create an emotionally compelling horror film, a love story even, which isn’t the easiest of tasks to pull off. Every step of the way you’ll find yourself rooting for the bride and groom to win. It’s one part terrifying, one part humorous, and one part romance. While I won’t rush to accept this as a [REC] film, it’s certainly a fine entry to the overarching mythos and should be watched with an open mind and expectations kept in check.
[REC] 3: Genesis is now available from Magnet Releasing through most VOD providers and in theaters starting September 7. It has its UK premiere at FrightFest on August 24th, then hits Region 2 DVD and Blu on September 3rd, from eOne.