Written by Paco Plaza & Luiso Berdejo
Directed by Paco Plaza
Along with co-director Jaume Balaguero, Paco Plaza breathed fresh life into zombie cinema and mastered the found footage style of horror with the first two installments of the [REC] franchise. Flying solo this time, Plaza delivers a wildly outside the box experience with Genesis. Rather than travel the well worn sequel route, Plazo delivers a side story with the events of the film running concurrently with the original two (there's a nod to [REC] and [Rec] 2 via television monitor in one scene). While hilarious and entertaining, there's grumbling amongst horror aficionados that Plaza failed to deliver the film they expected.
Those people are morons.
REC 3 kicks off by celebrating the marriage of earth shatteringly beautiful couple Clara (Leita Dolera) and Koldo (Diego Martin). Using a similar handheld style as the first two installments, Plaza focuses on the revelers congratulating the couple and having a merry time in the opulent reception hall. Trouble lurks on the fringe in the form of a beloved uncle showing off a dog bite he suffered earlier. Every now and again the camera cuts to him looking worse for wear, though his condition is written off as having boozed it up a bit too much. When the uncle tumbles off the balcony and crash lands through a table, the celebration screeches to a halt. When he follows up that act by ripping out a chunk of his wife's throat with his teeth while more infected crash through the windows and begin attacking the guests, chaos breaks out and the newlyweds find themselves separated from one another.
At this point [REC] drops the verite style (in a nifty visual stunt Plaza shows the smashed camera's recording light blink out of existence) by smashing to a title card which is accompanied by a bombastic score well suited for a horror film. In its last hour, Genesis eschews the style that made it famous in favor of a traditional narrative. Yet this isn't even the most controversial change.
REC 3 forgoes the claustrophobic, pants crapping horror of the first two films and takes on a wicked comedic bent for this go round. It plays like a spoof of the traditional zombie film while still delivering splatter and ballsy kills. The humor works terrific here, both in the big, over the top moments as well as the smaller character segues and gags. A little bit concerning a hearing aid gave me one of the biggest laughs I've had in a long time. While some are cursing at the thought of Plaza stifling giggles behind the camera by biting down on the inside of his cheek, I have to commend him for the new tone and direction. REC 3 should draw comparisons to Dead Alive and Evil Dead 2 in that it tosses such a ridiculous level of carnage on screen, and does so by often unconventional means you can't help but find the funny in it all.
Removing the action from the cramped quarters and using a more traditional structure also allows Plaza to show off his visual chops. Genesis takes full advantage of its lush surroundings. Plazo's film contains a bevy of stunning visuals set against the absolutely gorgeous backdrop of what must be the world's largest reception hall. Though Plaza drops the reality angle, Plaza occasionally employs security footage during the more harrowing moments. There's a frantic scene where a pair of guests attempt to herd a group of children out on a bus while the infected close in that plays all the better for its choppy black and white footage.
The story revolves around to the two lovers trying to reconnect with one another amidst the chaos. Both Martin and Doleria deliver phenomenal performances as Koldo and Clara. It's clear that Plaza wanted an Ashley Williams to call his very own, and Doleria gives him an icon-making performance as the pissed off and harangued bride. While it doesn't hurt that Ms. Doleria is one of the most striking and lovely women you'll see grace any screen this year, she's every bit as capable of delivering ass kickings as needed. Wild eyed and pissed off that her perfect day has gone straight down the crapper, she manages to wield a chainsaw with manic precision while delivering perfect round house kicks capable of cracking skulls. By contrast her husband Koldo is a bit more subdued in his methods, yet the sight of him skulking the facility in a suit of armor is one of the more inspiring visuals of the year.
The fantastic chemistry of its leads allows their journey back to one another shifts from humorous, to surprisingly sweet to gut wrenching. It's rare that any horror gives you a moment as sweet as the wedding party joining with Koldo to serenade his new bride moments after the nuptials. Genesis provides a pair of characters to openly root for and care about in such a way and Plaza along with his leads deserve massive credit for this accomplishment.
[REC] 3 also manages to give audiences a handful of memorable ancillary characters. From a sad sack whose job is to record what songs are played for royalty payouts, an enthusiastic wedding videographer or children's entertainer Sponge John (for copyright purposes), the film gives these bit roles brief moments to shine then dispatches them in visceral ways.
I didn't think another film could knock Cabin In The Woods off the “year's best” perch but damned if REC 3 isn't close. I have to wonder if the folks giving it a ton of flack for its change in tone have Evil Dead 2 side by side with Raimi's original film on their DVD shelf. One has to wonder if Raimi's most beloved genre film would receive the same reception today in an era where every aspect of a movie is dissected months before it even sees the light of day. The majority of the criticism I've read focuses on the fact that the film is different from the others, as if the only way to continue is to regurgitate the same formula over and over. Plaza's affection for the ED2 is evident throughout (a point driven home in a scene during the last few minutes). Even if you missed the first two installments, Genesis is such a different animal it can be enjoyed on its own merits.
[REC] 3 Genesis is now available through various video on demand outlets such as Amazon and iTunes. the films receives a limited theatrical run beginning September 7th.