Beginning of the End: Third Installment in Spanish Horror Series Morphs Into Banal Comedy
Every successful franchise eventually runs into a final chapter that miserably bungles the magic formula that made its predecessor(s) so damn fruitful. And the third entry in any series has the tricky tightrope act of logically continuing (or predating) material while also delivering something original, bigger and better than the bigger better already used in the first sequel. There are very few commendable cinematic examples, and the extremely entertaining and creepy REC films from Spain have fallen over the jagged precipice of one sequel too many with REC 3: Genesis.
Set on the very same evening of the first two REC films, a wedding ceremony is taking place miles away from the doomed, infected apartment complex of the first two films. A member of the wedding was exposed to the virus setting off the zombie rampage at the other location, and it’s not long before Clara (Leticia Dolera) and Koldo’s (Diego Martin) wedding reception becomes a bloodbath. Separated by the rampant carnage, Clara and Koldo meander around the reception and church grounds with various wedding party members, resolutely clinging to the idea that they will be reunited before even considering escape. It’s revealed by Clara over an intercom from Central Control that she just found out this morning she’s pregnant. As the zombies annihilate everyone, the recently married lovers get ever closer to finding one another, until it may, in fact, be too late even for them.
Beginning with the handheld camera/found footage style of its successful predecessors, REC 3 quickly abandons its now cheeky cinema verité aspirations that comprised the others by the time the title hits the screen, and we’re finally treated to an omniscient lens. While it bravely tries to branch out on its own, sadly, this completely deadens the thrills going forward, the spawning zombies drifting in and out of frame as deadly and ignoble as sign-holding homeless Los Angeles residents on street corners and bus stops. There’s enough production value to warrant the film a lazy look on a rainy Sunday morning for some worship at the cinema altar, but the fact that it portends to follow and exist in the same narrative universe as the other REC films sets one up for severe disappointment. Paco Plaza returns without the aid of his co-director, Jaume Balaguero, for this outing, and perhaps, unwisely so, taking the virus vs. religion mutation that weaves throughout the first two and patly replacing it with a dull as drying paint Catholicism motif here. Even the title addendum, Genesis, would lead you to believe that the film would explore the beginning of the zombie plague. But instead, is another tired and reaching biblical reference of little or no importance. Plaza is evidently keen on running his cash cow even further into the ground of utter ridiculousness with announced plans for REC 4: Apocalypse, solidifying the franchise as Spain’s very own Resident Evil-ish franchise.
But while holstered in for disappointment as a shallow installment, there are several standout elements, namely Leticia Delora as a pregnant bride keen on survival, then hungry for vengeance on the creatures that set out to ruin her ceremony, at one delirious moment slicing through her cumbersome dress with a chainsaw and chasing after zombies screaming, “It’s my day!” But even this Lori Petty eyed beauty can’t manage to save a severely uninspired second half, which would have us believe that a priest reading the bible over loudspeaker saves the day as it causes zombies to suffer petite mals and stand in place (though never mind the helicopters flying overhead that drown out the monotonous biblical reading, which one would assume would audibly free the automatons from the religious spoken word). This is now the fifth film treatment of REC (counting the remake Quarantine, 2008, and who can forget Quarantine 2: Terminal, 2011) and it’s high time to lay REC in a shallow grave. But Plaza, after having already delivered his original material over to the cannibal movie gods of regurgitation, insists on continuing on in the vein of pedestrian zombie comedy. Have a nice apocalypse.