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Stephanie Ogrodnik [Celluloid 07.22.12] horror thriller drama

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When I heard about the release of Rec 3: Genesis, hitting US VOD on August 3rd and theaters on September 7th, I wondered what a third film could possibly do for this found footage horror franchise. After all, only so much "originality" can be pounded into what is essentially a found footage zombie film, regardless if the virus is actually a demonic possession. Luckily, it seems that the filmmakers felt the exact same way and took us in an entirely different direction. In fact, director Paco Plaza and writer Luiso Berdejo took Rec 3: Genesis the way of Sam Raimi's Army of Darkness. Instead of maintaining the sinister tone of the first two films, this installment is steeped in conveniently placed chainsaws, suits of armor and bloodthirsty demons. And I enjoyed every minute.

Rec, a micro budget, found footage horror from Spain, managed to petrify and capture audiences worldwide. A year after its 2007 release came the American remake Quarantine, and 2009 brought us Rec 2, where a SWAT team returns to the apartment of the contained virus, to fairly unfortunate results. Five years later we have the franchise's third installment, and just as it did in the first, the chaos in this film begins with a dog. Like any real wedding, Koldo and Clara's special day is marred by a creepy uncle. Bit by a hound he could have sworn was dead, the Tio Victor's bloody bandage kicks off our anticipation of the terror we know will ensue. Setting the film in a wedding allows us to get to a feel for multiple characters in a condensed period of time. A handheld gives us sporadic glimpses of the wounded uncle to keep him registered in our mind, and as family members clamor for a spot on the wedding tape, we're provided with a wave of natural exposition. It also separates us from the Uncle long enough to raise tension, but never so long as to lose track of our jump off infected. When the moment of truth comes, we're built up and ready.

The film opens with a warm, yet suspenseful tone, once we learn that the bride has been keeping a secret. It appears at this point that the film will be shot primarily in the shaky camera, found footage style, though we're given the promise of "cinematic quality" when professional cameraman Atun, employed by Filmax, joins us on the scene. When the outbreak inevitably occurs, spreading rapidly through the packed reception, Koldo and Clara are snatched in different directions, forced to later fight their way back together. Here, I thought my predictions had come true. I had new characters to sink my teeth into, but at its heart this would only be a horror equivalent of Home Alone 3. We're given a new set of people with a relatively new plot, but it doesn't change the fact that we've already seen this structure layout - twice. However, once Koldo seeks refuge inside the kitchen with our two cameramen and the bride's little sister, the tone begins to shift.

Amidst the horrors unfolding, the film gradually starts drawing more and more attention to itself. They find an official hiding in the kitchen who we assume to be yet another CDC representative, biological warfare expert, etc. He instead turns out to be an official for song royalties, in charge of listing songs played at the wedding for copyright purposes. Also, when the face behind the handheld asserts that he must film everything because the world must know, we're given a nod to our protagonist in the first film. Also, with this cameraman's melodramatic tone and lack of press credentials it makes even less sense now than it did then. Of course, the major connection amongst all the Rec films is the found footage subgenre. However, once Koldo is fed up with the handheld, he doesn't just shout and shove the lens away like the police officers in the first film-he takes action. As soon as the cameras are disposed of and we're immersed into a high quality, higher budgeted, cinematic film, it's clear that while it still belongs in the Rec franchise, this is an entirely different animal.

Rec 3 is a decent example of a film where the puzzle pieces seem to fall into place. The cinematography is actually quite stunning. As Clara shivers in the rain, mascara seeping down her face, black pooling below her eyes (this is also key for make up, considering Leticia Dolera's striking eyes) in her lavish strapless wedding dress, we're presented with an image of beauty under siege. What's more impressive in this picturesque image is that as Clara's wide eyes dart wildly around an empty courtyard, we can actually share her fear. Long after the reception erupts into a sea of carnage, we're suddenly faced with a minute of silence, which is even more chilling than the latter. Suddenly, Clara appears vulnerable, standing alone in the center of an empty courtyard in her dripping white gown. Though it is great fun, this is still primarily a horror film and it never loses track of this. With moments like the courtyard scene, the filmmakers bring us through a variety of both emotions and scares. This keeps us driving forward with anticipation, rather than waiting for the next great kill.

Aside from executing a delightfully campy horror film, the filmmakers also pulled together a touching love story. In the proper Dead Alive strain, amidst the blood spattering are two people desperately in love, both willing to face hell to make sure the other is safe. We sympathize with both Koldo and Clara. Clearly in over his head when he sets out to find his wife, Koldo is driven by passion with no definite plan of how to reach her without getting eaten or maimed. Nevertheless, his quirkiness and willingness to continue his search, even when it seems that all hope is gone, keeps us cheering for him until the end. Clara is likewise an enjoyable character to follow. She's not the frail young bride desperately hoping to be saved, but the hot-blooded woman who will fight, slash and kill until she's back in her Koldo's arms. We don't connect with them simply as human beings with a determination to stay alive, but as star-crossed lovers with the ultimate roadblock to a honeymoon. As both Koldo and Clara continue to find themselves in peril, we find ourselves at the edge of our seats until we know they will be okay.

The most enjoyable part of this film, aside from the hilariously brutal gore and the lovable John Sponge (for the purposes of avoiding copyright laws-you'll understand when you watch), is that it feels like the filmmakers enjoyed their work. There's nothing more pleasing than watching a film where we can sense the joy the cast and crew must have had, mangling Koldo and Clara's family and annihilating as many tables in the reception hall as possible. That said, the film comes together as a well-rounded whole as opposed to just another installment. It stands on its own yet ties into the first films just enough so that it never fully deviates from the franchise. If you are hell-bent on a straightforward horror, this will probably disappoint you, but if you're in the mood for a campy horror that doesn't mind poking fun at itself, this should fill that craving. My faith is restored in these filmmakers-now, I just can't even imagine what the hell Rec 4: Apocalypse will bring.

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toro (9 years ago) Reply

Seriously, it's a bad movie. A few reasons:
1) Koldo is a retard. For almost 1/3 of the movie, he just walks around. Without purpose, without a weapon.
2) Clara is beautiful, but she is not a bright one either. Did she had to wear that dress for the entire movie?
3) The ending was simply ... crap. She had to be bitten in the most stupid way and she had to scream like a retard.
4) The bus scene is simply voyeurism: nobody was really interested in starting the engines !?
5) They messed with the original story: The Medeiros girl/Demon was so powerful, she killed the priest in Rec2.

I don't pretend to know how people will react in hard situations, but what made Rec1/2 great is missing from Rec3.


Blakberi (9 years ago) Reply

Seriously toro, dude, shout spoiler alert next time...


toro (9 years ago) Reply

I should have. Sorry. I have no excuse.


Charles Widmore (9 years ago) Reply

Quarantine was better than Rec. Quarantine 2: Terminal, although not as good as Quarantine, was still a hoot.

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