SXSW 2012 Movie Review: '[REC] 3'


Out of nowhere (actually, Spain) came [REC], and the horror freaks dubbed it good. No, great. And then came the remake (Quarantine) and the sequel ([REC] 2) and the remake's sequel (Quarantine 2: Terminal), which bring us up to speed: Paco Plaza, co-director of the first two [REC] entries is at the helm, solo this time, and he's back to his old tricks. What I liked most about [REC] 2 was how it combined lots of familiar stuff from [REC] with several new tangents of its own -- and [REC] 3: Genesis continues this trend rather impressively. Here the [REC] faithful are offered just enough "old stuff" to make Part 3 feel official, but it's also intent on being its own movie. You may think [REC] 3 is the weakest of the trilogy, relatively speaking, but you can't accuse Mr. Plaza and his colleagues of playing it safe with this series. 

Whereas the first two films took place inside of a truly creepy apartment building, [REC] 3 spins off on its own direction: the setting this time around is a large and confusing wedding hall. Seems that a sincerely lovely couple (Diego Martin and Leticia Dolera) is there to tie the knot, which gives Plaza and co-writer Luiso Perdejo ample opportunity to present familiar characters in a comfortable setting ... and then, of course, all hell breaks loose. One of the more lovable uncles has a nasty wound on his hand, you see, and anyone who knows the [REC] world knows what's on the menu: mayhem, carnage, and a "spiritual virus" that infects everyone it gets near. After a sweet little set-up, the madness hits the screen in frequent doses, and [REC] 3 quickly turns into an action-laced gore-lovin' horror flick that's actually very sweet and romantic.

Yes, you read that right: the third chapter in the notoriously scary, aggressively bloody [REC] franchise is, somehow, sweet and romantic. Kudos to the writers for finding a way to inject a small dose of warmth and humanity into a slam-bang blood-fest, but thanks in large part to the two leads, [REC] 3 turns into an unexpectedly heartfelt affair before all is said and done. That's not to say the flick skimps on kills, chases, escapes, or a few examples of smash-mouth gore-slinging; it's plenty nasty, trust me. But eventually the wedding hall "hook" graduates into a legitimately exciting story of "can the newlyweds find each other and escape in a world gone virally nutso?" And that's something pretty nice to discover in something called "horror flick Part 3."

The leads help sell this stuff a whole lot, as do a few of the more important supporting characters, but the simple truth is that Paco Plaza (and his frequent partner Jaume Balaguero, who will be directing [REC] 4 on his own) know how to stage, frame, and cut a violent scare together like nobody's business. [REC] aficionados will notice that Part 3 switches from "found footage" to a traditional method of cinematography about a half hour in, and here is just another example of how the whole series keeps you guessing: after two full movies done in "first person" perspective, the third movie switches to a normal camera style and just keeps chugging along, as if to say "the gimmick isn't what matters." And I couldn't agree more.

Perhaps a bit more sedate and chatty than the first two chapters, [REC] 3: Genesis still earns high marks for delivering something old and something new, and for allowing all of the components to take the same priority. Oh, and I'm also madly in love with the lead actress. You haven't lived until you've seen a gorgeous Spanish woman destroy devil zombies while wearing a bloody bridal gown with red thigh garter in full view.