Director Paco Plaza, the undisputed king of found footage movies (so far) has come back to the well for a third [REC] film, as we follow the outbreak of a strange virus that turns regular people (and as we learn in this film, most importantly, animals) into bloodthirsty monsters looking for people to feast on. Both [REC] and [REC] 2 focus on an apartment building where emergency personnel are trying to make sure the virus doesn’t spread beyond the building. The insane intensity and surprise twists have kept fans coming back to the series, both for the sequel, [REC] 2 and the American remake Quarantine starring Jennifer Carpenter, which even spawned a direct-to-video sequel Quarantine: Terminal. While that film seems like it was mostly forgettable, [REC] 2 was a fun continuation of the series, and a cool look at the story’s progression from the first film.
So when fans found out that [REC] 3: Genesis would be a parallel prequel (happening just before the events in the first film) not a lot of people got overly excited. When fans also found out that director Paco Plaza would deviate from the first-person point of view style that made it a found footage film, many got worried. Then, they found out the film would star Spanish actress Leticia Dolera, and everyone seemingly forget every negative word uttered about the film.
Thanks to Magnet Releasing, the film hit VOD earlier this month, and is gearing up for a limited theatrical release on September 7th. To start things off, the film takes a familiar tone, being told through the lens of an amateur photographer witnessing his family at his cousin’s wedding that lead up to everything going absolutely insane. The film’s set up shares some common threads with the other [REC] films, including further hints at how the outbreak started infecting humans. There is still no definitive answer, which is something I suppose Paco Plaza is saving for [REC] 4: Apocalypse.
Quickly, as soon as everything starts to go really crazy, we cut away from the handheld footage and go straight into cinematic mode. I suppose this will throw some people, but the intensity of the film never slows down, and the way the camera moves is quite similar to the past two films, so the slight difference in styles never threw me far off the story, which was the most interesting thing to me, how this outbreak started, and how it spreads so fast across a modern country, even with the infusion of communication and media into the mix, making it harder for government agencies to intervene the way they used to.
The biggest let down is the fact that a lot of the film covers the same ground as the two previous films: Characters are trapped, without a way to get out, and must rely on each other and extreme luck to survive, as well as an incredibly strong will. The biggest disappointment is the third act, where the steam is lost and the end reveal lacks the punch that the ending to the first film packed. Even the second film managed to bring something unexpected at the end, however, this film seems to be setting up the ending from the first frame, and it makes all the running throughout the film seem a bit tedious.
For the most part, it seems a lot of horror fans are more impressed with the image of a bloody Leticia Dolera in a wedding dress than what goes on with the plot, yet a lot of outlets don’t like the film for changing gears and going straight up horror. The gore and violence you have come to expect from the [REC] series is still present, however, the constant intensity and mystery that the first two films unfold doesn’t get added to enough, and there are too many lulls in the action, leaving the bulk of the film feeling like the lesser parts of the first two films.
All in all, not a bad zombie/infected movie, and especially interesting as a ‘ground zero’ look at a zombie outbreak like we’ve rarely seen before, unfortunately, too much of [REC] 3: Genesis is too familiar in too many places. The leads, Dolera and Diego Martin, are affable enough, and although their journey through the apocalypse is interesting to watch, it’s ultimately unsatisfying, especially having to wait until the next film for more of an explanation. More emphasis is put on the religious aspect of the outbreak, as was touched on in [REC] 2, but it really only adds to the mystery, which I hope will be fully solved in the fourth film, also said to ditch the cinema verite style. We’ll see.