Movie Review: [REC]³ Génesis
Review by Nia Edwards-Behi
I have a feeling you might all misunderstand me when I compare REC3 to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2. You’re all going to think I hated it. Well, no. I love The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 almost as much as the original, and when I say REC3 is the Chainsaw 2 of this franchise, I mean it as an absolute compliment. Tonally completely – intentionally – different to its predecessors, REC3 doesn’t seek to replicate what made the first two instalments of this franchise successful, but rather takes it in a different direction, while maintaining and extending the franchise’s over-arching narrative.
Clara and Koldo are getting married. Their families are gathered and happy for the couple, many of them filming the event. Following the church service, revellers celebrate into the night…until something goes horribly wrong. Suddenly, guests start attacking each other, ripping out throats and tearing at human flesh. During the ensuing chaos, the newlyweds are separated. However, this is a passionate couple, and each is convinced of the other’s endurance. As their friends are dying around them, Clara and Koldo seek each other out in the chaos, desperately seeking an escape from their wedding from hell.
What is immediately most notable about REC3, compared to its predecessors, is that it completely drops the conceit of found footage. Well, not completely, perhaps, as a frankly brilliant pre-title sequence consists entirely of footage shot by wedding guests and the official wedding photographer…then, something happens, just before the film’s title appears on screen, that is so pointed and so brilliant that I solo-applauded my own TV screen. It’s the kind of scene that would get cheers from a crowd of horror fans, as sure we’re all bored of found footage by now. While lesser filmmakers keep trying to replicate the successful scares of films like REC, those behind the franchise are clever enough to bring something different to the table. As such, REC3 is traditionally cinematic in its style. With this change in style comes a suitable change of tone, further removing the film from its predecessors and likewise ensuring the franchise does not stagnate, as so many horror franchises do.
There’s nothing particularly outstanding about Plaza’s direction in this film, except to say that it is fast-paced and vital, gleefully following the carnage as it unfolds. Plaza, I’d say, lets his actors do much of the work, and rightfully so, because he’s assembled a great cast. There’s a great deal of black humour and the cast works wonderfully together, with chemistry between even minor characters helping the well-timed humour. The film’s strongest asset in this respect is easily the film’s lead, Leticia Dolera, who is utterly superb as Clara. The marketing for the film has exploited the attractive image of a bloodied Clara, her wedding dress ripped, wielding a chainsaw, and unsurprisingly so. It comes from one of the film’s finest sequences, and it encapsulates the spirit of the film nicely: this isn’t serious, this isn’t even all that frightening, but it is a damn lot of fun. Dolera as Clara is charming and powerful – for every sequence of gore there’s an equally excessive sweetness in her insistent search for Koldo. The sentimentality is over-played, purposefully, but the deftness of Dolera’s performance, along with that of Diego Martin as Koldo, means this sentimentality is never overbearing or annoying.
Anyway, the film’s fantastic climax makes it all worthwhile. Where REC and REC2 were, frankly, terrifying, REC3 is very much a film focused on fun, adventure and buckets of gore. There are some impressively gross moments (hand-held kitchen blender to the face, anyone?) and the film gleefully embraces the cartoonish appeal of such scenes without becoming silly or parodic. REC3 feels like it should have been made in the 80s on a much smaller budget, at times coming across like a Spanish Evil Dead 2 in its tone.
If REC3 is so different to its predecessors, how does it fit in to the franchise, then? Well, it fits brilliantly. The events of this film take place at more or less the same time as the events of the previous two (given as REC2 takes place immediately after the end of REC). As is pointed out in the making-of featurette, there are moments in REC3 when the events taking place in the apartment building that houses the Medeiros girl appear on television screens in the background of the wedding reception. Admittedly, I didn’t notice these without them being pointed out, but regardless, they don’t need to be there to provide a sense of cohesion. The source of the outbreak at the wedding is clear, the way the initial survivors attempt to escape is in keeping with what we’ve seen previously, and likewise what they face when they ‘escape’ is much the same. Once more, the change in tone suits the different setting, and does well to keep the franchise interesting.
I can’t help but wish that Jaume Balaguero hadn’t spent time making Sleep Tight (great though it is), and just went ahead and made REC4: Apocalypse already. The film will have a great deal to live up to, but if it can replicate the successful continuation of the franchise as Plaza has done with REC3, then Balaguero’s conclusion could be something special indeed. Given the final instalment’s title, there’s a hint there, perhaps, as to where the story’s going, and I welcome it; a grander scale befitting the development from claustrophobic found footage, to full-blown apocalypse. For the time being, at least, there are now three fantastic and inventive horror films to be watched and re-watched in anticipation of this conclusion.
[REC]³ Génesis arrives in cinemas on August 31st (UK) and September 7th (US) and is available On Demand now.