The third film in the REC series has arrived, and with it arrive some changes. The first film inverted the paradigm of Night of the Living Dead, trapping survivors in a building with zombies. REC 2 turned the dials to 11, injecting a first-person shooter angle into the cinéma vérité mix and upping the adrenaline levels (think of REC as Alien and REC 2 as Aliens and you’ll have a good idea of what to expect.) Now REC 3: Genesis adds something else entirely unexpected: humor. Even weirder is that it works surprisingly well. (The rest of this review will contain the occasional spoiler for the first two films, so if you haven’t seen them and are spoiler averse, stop here).
Contrary to early rumor, and the possibly misleading subtitle, this is not a prequel. It’s a sequel that takes place more or less concurrently with the first two films, tracing an incidental victim of the first film’s dog-zombie (never seen on screen in either film, just discussed) and the zombie havoc he wreaks on his nephew’s wedding. That’s the plot, by the way: zombie outbreak at a wedding. If you were expecting anything deeper than bridesmaids being eaten, sorry, move along.
That said, it is, without a doubt, the best zombie apocalypse at a wedding movie ever. As mentioned, this movie injects a healthy dose of humor in the mix in a serious tonal shift from the first two. You could call it a horror comedy, or a horror movie with some funny bits—it’s kind of on the border between the two—but either way, there are some great, genuinely funny moments in here, and some of the zombie kills are played for laughs. It never tries to be quite as yuck-yuck funny as Zombieland, but it’s close at some points, although the majority of it is played relatively straight.
Haters of the first two films’ found footage/cinéma vérité approach will be happy to hear that is abandoned here. The opening ten minutes or so are done via the same approach, until it suddenly ends it in a clever and funny way. From there on out it’s just traditionally shot (and quite gorgeous) zombie mayhem. The gore is really nicely done, and there’s plenty of it. The actors acquit themselves admirably, which is always a nice change of pace for a zombie movie. There are some nice references to the first two films (several of which are played for laughs) and it moves along at a brisk pace. It’s not a profound film in any way, but it is damn fun. There’s one odd bit, regarding the number of zombies around once the mayhem starts, that may or may be an error, but unless you’re looking for nits to pick, it’s not going to trouble you much (and hell, it could be intentional and hint at something I missed).
As with the first two films, zombie purists are going to be pissy about this being called a zombie movie. Whatever. Pretend it’s not if it makes you feel better, because it would be a shame to miss out on the series because of that stick in your ass. In case you’ve forgotten, these zombies are caused by a case of mass demonic possession. That plays a pretty important role in the plot, but isn’t too heavy handed. While I suspect any number of fans of the first two will be turned off by the turn toward humor, it worked really well. For me, at least, it made the religious mumbo jumbo go down a lot easier, and as much as I enjoy a bleak apocalypse, most of my favorite zombie movies include a solid dose of humor. Director Paco Plaza has definitely shown he has his own style apart from Jaume Balagueró, his co-director on the preceding films. It will be interesting to see how Balagueró handles REC 4.
REC 3: Genesis/Spain/2012