It’s amazing how regularly a series of horror films becomes victim to the law of diminishing returns. Disappointingly the [REC] series has fallen very deeply into this trap, offering less and less as we progress. [REC] was one of the best horror films of the last decade, plain and simple. It’s effectiveness stemmed primarily from the first person perspective, the isolation, a genuine feeling of no escape and the intensity this built too. I discuss the film in a bit more detail somewhere amidst a lengthy exegesis on my recent feelings on horror – here. [REC]2 tried to ape its predecessors success, utilising the same setting but with more frustrating plot points and a major misjudgement in giving the protagonists automatic weapons to go up against the infected. When the odds are stacked like that and with the extended rattle of gunfire, the efficacy of such potentially creepy environments quickly dissipates.
And so to [REC]3: Génesis, the third installment that genuinely offers something different to what got us to this point. We’re no longer in a quarantined city apartment block we’re at a wedding reception out in a slightly more rural area. It’s Clara (Leticia Dolera) and Koldo’s (Diego Martín) day; we watch them get married and move onto the reception where things inevitably turn into a fight for survival, as the events we’ve previously seen unfold in the city reach them.
I quite liked this as a setting for a zombie movie - a lot of people in one place and a big building with a number of rooms/settings can be interesting and gives plenty of scope for not knowing what’s around the corner. Both Dolera and Martín do a decent enough job as the leads and are both pretty likeable with a clear goal that extends beyond just survival. It’s impressive how beautiful Dolera manages to look covered in blood, make-up running and with her wedding dress ravaged. None of this is enough to create an effective horror film though.
The biggest problem ultimately stems from the direction. This is a horror film without any scares or jumps - the antithesis of the first film. Most of the horror comes from seeing people covered in blood and looking zombified, until the latter part when the film decides to get into the business of trying to be more graphic. Strange then that although this is welcomed it feels dissonant with how tame the rest of the film is. Then there’s the really clunky way in which religion is brought back in to explain events. It’s not new as it was very subtly there in the first film and more prevalent in the second, but here it just feels cheap and badly shoehorned in.
Camerawork is also something of a notable point. The first twenty minutes establish the film in the vein we’ve gotten used to with handheld footage cutting between three different camera perspectives. And then suddenly we’re watching a more traditional film for the duration, which immediately robs the story of any potency. The thing is it’s actually really well shot with some great looking scenes, but that’s pretty meaningless when it’s not actually aiding the story. This change to a traditional style also means there’s a score over the film, but it isn’t very good, regularly feeling out of place and jarring when all it should be doing is enhancing.
[REC] never needed a sequel and it certainly never needed a third of fourth film. It’s commendable that something different has been tried in [REC]3: Génesis, as the original idea had already given all it could during the first sequel, but we’re not presented with anything better here. Yes there are a couple of good ideas but they’re not enough to cover for what is essentially a pretty lacklustre horror film. Director Paco Plazo co-directed and co-wrote the first two films alongside Jaume Balagueró, and Balagueró is separately working on the fourth (and hopefully final) film, [REC] Apocalypse. It’ll be interesting to see how that compares and which one of the pair really is the better director. Either way I can’t see myself ever having a desire to watch these sequels again – the lack of any decent horror and law of diminishing returns is too great.