As with any assessment on a sequel, first comes a preface with brief thoughts on the entries that have come before it. And, I’ll be honest, I have never watched the REC films more than once because I have this thing about playing out films that impact me – I’ll revisit them soon enough. I find them highly entertaining and effective.
I’ll never forget the first time I saw the original, an assault on the nerves without..a…doubt. REC 2 further quickened the pulse, heightened the action, offered new perspectives of the unfolding horror and explored the mythology further. We were not dealing with a typical “infected” victim here. The threat in this series worked on a spiritual level. Infection by way of possession, which gave the films a cool Lamberto Bava’s Demons-esque vibe. But the REC movies stood on their own with an inventive take on a particular sub-genre and an aggressive visual approach.
Which brings us to REC 3: Genesis. Paco Plaza is flying solo in the director’s seat this time, sans Jaume Balaguero, his co-director on the previous two entries. And, for the most part, he fares quite well. It’s brisk, bloody and packs some laughs, but it holds no surprises. What it lacks in ingenuity it more than makes up for with some clever writing and characters.
Set slightly before the events of REC, the meat of the story takes place at a wedding reception for love birds Koldo and Clara, an adorable couple who genuinely dig each other, so you love ‘em for that right away. Clara’s got a secret, however, and unfortunately, Plaza and his co-write Luiso Berdejo (who contributed to the first REC) call upon a tired genre trope at this point in an effort to raise the emotional stakes.
Akin to the first two films, this reception turns sour and a possession outbreak occurs. It’s around this point where REC 3 goes from “business as usual with potential” to something, well, pretty conventional. The first act is rife with first-person perspective camera work, hopping between a teenager’s digital camera to a professional wedding videographer (who bears a striking resemblance to Guillermo del Toro and claims he works for a company called Filmax, a nod and a wink to the production outfit behind the REC films). During a moment of clarity that one doesn’t get much of in found footage flicks, someone actually drops the camera and REC 3 is pushed into a, well, traditionally shot film.
The rest plays out fairly standard as Plaza’s tale focuses on reuniting Koldo and Clara – both of whom were split during the massacre. Plaza keeps the pace speeding along, throwing endless waves of possessed at our survivors, a random selection of folk who keep things interesting (for instance “SpongeJohn”). But, more or less, REC 3 is pretty formulaic. Disappointing, because REC 2 was so progressive. This film isn’t so much a step backwards, but it certainly has the series running in place while it figures out where to turn next.
It’s a fun journey nonetheless, because it’s set in this established world we hold so dearly. I just hope, when Jaume Balaguero hits us with REC: Apocalypse – the supposed final chapter in the series – we’ll get blown away with something fresh.