THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan
"[REC] 3: GENESIS"
The Spanish-language [REC] series may not be well-known among general audiences, but to horror aficionados, it's beloved. The original (remade in America under the title Quarantine) depicted a lethal plague afflicting the tenants of an apartment building, and was told from the viewpoint of a news reporter and her cameraman. [REC] 2 took place immediately after the original ended. It followed a SWAT team entering the building to clean up the mess created during the first installment. The action this time was captured via video cameras mounted on their helmets. [REC] 3: Genesis abandons the “found footage” concept after the first twenty minutes, opting to go a more conventional route. (Cameras still play a large part in the action, though.) Shaking up the style of a series can be iffy, but [REC] 3 is such an awesomely crazy survival-horror joyride that the changes prove welcome.
We've all seen movies about plagues/viruses/curses that turn innocent people into bloodthirsty zombies. What's original this time is the milieu. [REC] 3 opens as though it's a wedding video, capturing the union of Clara (Leticia Dolera) and Koldo (Diego Martin). Partway through the reception, a seemingly drunk uncle falls from a balcony and then takes a big bite out of the face of another guest. Chaos ensues. From this point forward, the film jumps into the here-and-now. Separated during the panic, Clara and Koldo must try to find each other across the vast estate where their wedding was held, while outrunning their newly-mutated loved ones.
Whereas the first two [REC] movies were intentionally raw found footage chillers, the third installment is a more stylized production. This is one of those movies where the blood and gore are so precisely designed and photographed that it becomes beautiful in a strange, grotesque way. In the last half hour, we see Clara with her makeup running down her face, her wedding dress in tatters, her hair a mess. Blood and dirt are caked all over her body, and a gore-soaked chainsaw is in her hands. She's never looked more gorgeous. Some fans may miss the down-and-dirty vibe of the first two chapters, but I think the found footage concept has limitations. Giving [REC] 3 a polished look points toward the future, suggesting that, should the series continue, it can carve out new ideas for itself.
Writer/director Paco Plaza stages some really insane action scenes, including some of the grisliest “kills” I've ever seen in a film of this genre. A bit where Koldo fights off an infected person in the banquet hall's kitchen has a wonderfully nasty coda, while Clara's chainsaw defense in the service tunnels underneath the hall provides multiple back-to-back jolts. All of it is done in a fun-gruesome manner – not unlike the early Sam Raimi flicks - where you delight in the inventive ways the movie presents carnage. At the same time, Plaza isn't content just to deliver horror. [REC] 3 has a touch of humor, most evident in scenes involving a children's entertainer who gets caught up in the mayhem. There's even a touch of pathos. I genuinely rooted for Clara and Koldo to find each other. The final shot of the film drives home their love for one another in an unexpectedly meaningful way.
It's worth mentioning that horror films are best when they have a dynamic, sympathetic performer in the lead role. Leticia Dolera fulfills that requirement nicely here. She has an astonishingly expressive face, able to convey dozens of different fear reactions, while also mixing in other emotions. [REC] 3 possesses a satiric edge, suggesting that Clara is so pissed off that her wedding was ruined that she dedicates herself to getting revenge on everyone responsible. Dolera brings this idea out wonderfully, proving herself one of the most kickass horror heroines in recent years.
Most movies about people becoming infected typically have many of the same elements, and they rarely have deep plots. That's true here, as well. Nevertheless, [REC] 3: Genesis is a complete blast, anchored by a fantastic lead performance and some of the most lushly sickening visuals you'll see this year.
( out of four)
[REC] 3: Genesis is rated R for strong bloody horror violence and some language. The running time is 1 hour and 20 minutes.
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