Contains mild spoilers.
I've not hidden the fact I was heavily disappointed with [REC]²; I thought it a rushed cash-in on the success of the first with an incoherent rambling plot with shocks and scares at the expense of a consistent narrative. It left a sour taste in my mouth and reading all the criticism levelled at [Rec]³ I wasn't in a rush to return to director Paco Plaza's demonic-zombie vision of hell on earth.
The film begins again in the trademark handheld shaky cam. Cousin to the groom Adrián (Àlex Monner), official wedding photographer Atún (Borja Glez. Santaolallaare) are outside the church ready to capture Clara (Leticia Dolera) and Koldo's (Diego Martín) big day. As the action jumps from camera to camera the viewer is introduced to the characters and set-up as if watching the official wedding video; it's inventive, stylish, playful and all very much what we'd expect from a [REC] film.
I was aware that this would be a departure from the first two with new characters and a new setting and you may, like I did, have thought with the title Génesis we were in for an origin story set sometime before the outbreak in the Barcelona apartment block where we'd learn something of how the Medeiros girl came to be but it's not.
Koldo's uncle Tío Pepe Víctor (Emilio Mencheta) arrives at the wedding nursing a fresh bite which he explains he received from a rabid dog he thought was dead. The dog of course is the same dog traced back to apartment resident Jennifer in [REC] and responsible for introducing the infection and shitstorm. What we have here though is a kind of parallel tale occurring roughly the same time as the events of the first to a new set of people across town. Now I'm not quite sure how the timescale works, whether the night of the wedding is the same night in the apartment massacre or it's the night after but the fact Miss Medeiros makes a kind of appearance (or does she, I'm not sure) makes me think it might be the night after. I'm sure someone else will have explained it all.
So with the wedding in full swing, the bride and groom strutting their stuff on the dance floor and everybody being as drunk and loud as possible what better time to introduce some mayhem. I'll say one thing, zombies know how to crash a wedding in style. The zombies, if that's what they are, are visceral, bloody and downright nasty, and they don't muck about when it comes to getting stuck in. Within seconds of Pepe taking his first bite, two more arrive and it's screaming, running, blood and all the chaos and carnage we'd expect; it's great stuff. Out of the whirlwind Koldo makes it to the kitchen with a small group of survivors including Atún and it's here we see Plaza, now without co-director Jaume Balagueró, cement his own somewhat controversial vision on the franchise.
Turning to Atún and the camera, Koldo actually does what we all think we'd do when people start dropping like flies and someone refuses to stop filming; he pulls it from his hands, smashes it to the ground and tells him to stop it. Bang! New credits roll, a more cinematic direction takes hold of the action and Plaza is now able to fashion his own Rec film with a far greater scope for style and flair. There is a problem though, this new direction doesn't seem to have gone down well with the fans. Both [REC] and [REC]² were tight claustrophobic gritty horror films. They were dark, nasty and designed to scare the beejesus out of you. [REC]³ is a far more expansive action, horror zom-rom-com and as much a love story as a zombie film. Plaza whilst certainly paying full respect to the REC world he helped create is definitely trying something different and while it's still chock full of the trademark jumps and shocks it's definitely lighter and less visceral. I'll acknowledge the criticism but politely add it's wrong. It's not worse because of it, it's just different.
Now to the big question; what are they and are they zombies? It's a difficult question. They certainly act like zombies, macabre twitchy death machines with a singular focus on consuming flesh. They're fast, frantic, can leap, climb and run and they'll chase the living with tenacity and an insatiable hunger. They're also definitely zombie by infection. I'm not quite sure why it took so long for Koldo's uncle to turn, perhaps as he was bit by a dog, but later once the infection is transferred you get to see it spread through the veins and its mere seconds before the eyes cloud, blood starts coming out the orifices and there's a new zombie recruit ready to join the cause. So it sounds pretty zombie so far right? The thing is, I'm not really sure anyone actually dies and there's the whole thing of demonic possession and the Medeiros girl puppet mastery.
A staple with the REC franchise has been the ambiguity of the killers. [REC]² kind of explained infection as the medium to enable demonic possession or something like that, with the possessed Medeiros girl as the origin and intelligence behind the whole thing. It sounds like a bit of a mess but personally I like the uncertainty of it all; the confusion only acts to heighten the fear and tension and not ever really knowing what the hell is going on drives the want to keep watching. While they are bit 28 Days Later, seemingly turned after infection but still very much alive, there's all the blood coming out the mouths as if internally things are very much not right and some later scenes where Pepe seems impervious to the sort of damage that should kill him. Also with all the exploitative chainsaw, mace and broadsword kills and the definite focus on head trauma as the solution, I'm happy enough to call them zombies.
[REC]³ is a fantastic zombie film. Alright, I can accept it could easily have existed aside from the first two but this isn't necessarily a bad thing. I heavily criticised the second for being too similar to it's predecessor and there was a danger that in doing the same thing again the franchise would become stale and formulaic. By branching out, retaining the things that established the first film's identity, but striving for a new, fresh and different look and feel there's less chance this identity will be diluted and more chance it has a future.
Extremely well directed with great camera work and an evocative use of lighting, all made possible by ditching the handy-cam [REC]³ is a visual treat. Cameras pan, focus fades in and out and Plaza capture the well realised, perfectly synced and choreographed zombies in all their dark putrid glory. The acting is convincing, the narrative totally coherent and the action, horror and romance perfectly balanced and complimentary. Taken for what it is, not [REC] or [REC]², but [REC]³, the franchise out of the cupboard and into the world, a bit lighter, a bit airier, but still shocking with the same underlying ambience, it's extremely successful. REC, I'm back on board, 7/10.