R: [REC]3 – Genesis (2012)

Letterboxd Master List

Last year we watched the really good sequel [REC] 2 (and had previously watched the original [REC] back in 2012 before these alphabetized marathons were invented. So it’s quite natural to bring in the third chapter here, and doubtless to ride this train until next year, content to not have to rack my brain or Google for a horror movie starting with R for one more year. As I pointed out yesterday: Yes, I am that lazy.

[Rec]³ begins true to its roots, though with a welcome twist: the opening apes the beginning of a cheesy wedding video, with a song and childhood pictures of the bride and groom. Thankfully we cut from that to the raw footage of the wedding, from two different video cameras – an amateur with his tiny camera and a pro with a steadicam. You’ll be meeting with most of the characters during this segment, but since this is a [Rec] movie, don’t get too attached to any of them. You’re probably safe with the Groom, Koldo (Diego Martin) and the bride, Clara (Leticia Dolera, who is kind of the platonic ideal of the beautiful bride. I mean, wow), though. For the moment.

See? I told you.

So we go through the wedding and the sumptuous reception. One of the uncles isn’t feeling well, The video camera picks up a police car and a couple of guys wearing hazmat suits. Odd. Then that sick uncle gets all bitey and things go straight to hell. Koldo and Clara are separated in the carnage, and the panicking groom demands of the photographer, “Why are you still filming?”, grabs the camera and smashes it to the floor.

There, at 22 minutes, we finally get our opening title. And with the camera smashed, [Rec]³ abandons the found footage format for the rest of the movie.

I’m of two minds about that. First – yeah, okay, it does feel like director Paco Plaza (one of the two co-directors of the preceding flicks) breathes an audible sigh of relief as he starts setting up shots without having to deal with the Rules of the Found Footage Film. The bizarreness of the subgenre is that making a good found footage flick is actually harder than making a regular film. Action and effects sequences have to be laid out and planned with long takes in mind, and if one thing goes wrong… well, movie making is an exercise in Things Going Wrong. This is why there are so many bad found footage movies – people think they’re easy to make. And the first two [Rec] movies are good found footage movies.

From that last sentence, you might think I didn’t like [Rec]³, and up to a point, you’re right. Oh, it’s a good zombie flick – plenty of gore and suspense, the mythology of the series advances somewhat – the attending priest has a theory about fallen angels and finds out the afflicted can be paralyzed by saying Bible verses to them (at least if you’re a clergyman) – but absent the sort of berserk creativity necessary to following the aforementioned Rules of the Found Footage Film, it becomes exactly that: another zombie movie. The trials of Clara and Koldo trying to get back together without dying is compelling, but toward the end of the flick viewing simply became an exercise in yelling things at the screen (these people have a lot invested in dropping weapons).

I swore off zombie movies for a decade, and after only a few years of cautiously watching them, I find myself succumbing to Zombie Fatigue once more. To anybody bitching about being tired of superhero movies, I say unto you, try being tired of zombie movies. There are lots more of those.

But it’s the care that went into [Rec]³ that makes me hold off that particular kill switch for a while (that and the fact that I have at least one more zombie flick to review this Hubrisween). Plaza makes some clever connections to the first movie, letting us know how [Rec]³ fits in with the first two: that sick uncle is a veterinarian, bitten by a dog that was thought to be dead. That’s a bit from the first movie that I had almost forgotten. In a TV in the background of one scene, we see news footage of the police and army outside the building from [Rec] 2. The Marvel fan in me appreciates that sort of callback.

Plaza and Jaume Balagueró co-directed the first two movies, then split up the duties between [Rec]³ and [Rec] 4. So I’ve also got to hold off abandoning zombies movies until I can see what Balagueró pulls off on his own. At least I have a year to build up my resistance again.