The “found footage” genre of film making is getting a little long in the tooth for my liking. It seems that every other horror film that hits the silver screen is “cobbled together” from somebody’s home video. Hey, I loved the first Paranormal Activity flick, but how many of those do we actually need?
Sorry, I don’t mean to pick any of you PA fans out there, I’m just saying, you know?
Ok. So, let me ask the same question about some “found footage” films that I really do like. Fair’s fair, after all.
The Spanish films REC and REC 2 rank as two of my all-time favourite films in the horror genre. The evidence of that can be found here. I really feel that they, specifically, not only build smartly on the “food footage” genre but also build on the Zombie lore in film.
But REC 3? REC 3 was always going to be different.
If you haven’t seen the first two films in the REC series yet, I highly recommend that you do. Skip the American adaptation of the first film, called Quarantine, even if it does have Dexter’s Jennifer Carpenter in it. It’s the Spanish versions, directed by Jaume Balagueri and Paco Plaza that you want to see. The films are one continuous story that takes place in a city apartment complex occupied by the elderly, the immigrant or the impoverished. They are, essentially, an editorial on how the upper classes treat the poverty stricken. Where the first film is claustrophobic and tense, the second is terrifying and action-packed. It’s like watching Alien and then Aliens. They’re different, yet the same. And you end up loving them both equally.
I saw the trailer for REC 3:Genesis, directed solely by Paco Plaza, at the beginning of the year – and knew the storyline from the first two films in this burgeoning franchise was going to be dropped. Good, I thought. Those two are classics now. Leave them be. Don’t screw them up. Except that there’s an interesting through-line in the films, one that deals with Catholicism and demons, that I thought might be lost in what I saw of the third film.
It’s there. It’s just, well, not as smartly placed.
I was able to watch REC 3: Genesis last week in a theatre full of REC fans. Audience participation, in hindsight is key to this film.
The whole of the movie occurs during a wedding reception in the Spanish countryside on the grounds of a building that kind of resemble the historic Casa Loma, here in Toronto. The actual film in this round of “found footage” is courtesy of the over-reaching wedding videographer as well as a young cousin, an amateur looking to find his own visual voice in “cinema verite”. Of course, we meet all of the extended family and learn about their personalities: the grooms’ best buddy who is anxiously looking for the bride’s sexy French friend, the uncle that drinks too much, the short grandfather who is hard of hearing, as well as many others.
This is a wedding you’ve participated in, you see. Hell, the family and friends could even be your own. And that’s the point of REC 3: Genesis. Where the first two films were a treatise on society and economics, REC 3: Genesis is the editorial on the politics of weddings and wedding days.
And that makes it a whole lot of fun. You don’t need to think as much in this film – it’s immediately lighter fare. Where the audience was once running alongside the main characters in order to escape the confines of the apartment complex, we’re watching from the outside in REC 3: Genesis, and collectively laughing at the sort of Mad Magazine experience the characters are going through. Part of that is because the “found footage” choice of film making, that feeling of actually being in the story, stops a third of the way into the movie. The choice makes sense. What wedding videographer would continue to shoot when rage-filled zombies are after him? REC 3: Genesis become like any other type of movie making experience and relies on the more usual trick of the trade to achieve success.
There’s a lot of blood in REC 3: Genesis. A lot. We get to see the groom suit up like Saint George and use the sword he first cut his wedding cake with on a couple of the undead, and we cheer him on. We get to see the beautiful bride tear off her white (and red) wedding dress, pick up a chainsaw and famously use it impale an attacking zombie, and we scream and holler and clap. An electric eggbeater is shoved down the throat of one of the antagonists, and we shriek with joy. The children at the wedding get a great scene, too, one that tells us that fair’s fair in zombie flicks. And then there’s the showdown with Mom. There’s really some iconic imagery at play here.
But REC 3: Genesis has a lot of comedy in it too. My favourite bit of dialogue comes from the bride and her invited French friend, on the run from the undead, the two carry a lot of baggage between them. “I didn’t think you’d invite me,” the friend says. “I didn’t think you’d come,” the bride responds. Everyone in the theatre laughed.
Still, these are all the sorts of visual imagery that we’ve kind-of gotten used to over the years. It’s fun, but it’s a little hokey at times.
REC 3: Genesis is meant to be seen with large audiences. That’s how it should be remembered. I saw the first two films alone – the best way to see them – but this third instalment, like a wedding, needs guests. It’s a decent zombie movie, so very different from the first two that I adore, but it’s not a great one. What makes it better are the characters in the audience, sitting beside you. I’d watch it again, but only at a midnight screening in some revue cinema. With other REC fans.
REC 4: Apocalypse, already filmed (or filming) is scheduled to be released in 2013. It will, apparently, be the last of the franchise.
If REC 3: Genesis does one important thing that stays with you, it’s that it makes you wonder about where the creators will take the franchise in that fourth instalment. If they’re going to try to keep the franchise fresh and play in different types of story while keeping true to the “found footage”, zombie genres and religious themes, I know that I (and the pal I saw the film with) would like to see REC 4: Apocalypse take place in the Vatican. Let’s have the Catholic Church put together an all-star team of evil-hunters consisting of Catholic, Jewish and Muslim religious leaders, going all-out on the zombie-demon scourge of the REC films! I love it when teams get put together! Whenever the white smoke rises from the Vatican chimney, it’s not only a new Pope chosen, but evidence that a zombie apocalypse has been put down!
Man, the two of us had that film scripted within fifteen minutes of walking out of REC 3: Genesis. Any producers out there? We’re available to negotiate.
So, let the speculation begin! We’ve got one more REC film to look forward to…and the apocalypse in 2013 is imminent!
You can purchase REC 3: Genesis via Amazon – and you can skip the negative comments surrounding it just so long as you watch it in a large group.