First published by LWLies
[REC]3 Génesis opens with a cheap DVD menu for “The Marriage of Clara and Koldo”, followed by an extremely cheesy stills slideshow (entitled “A Wonderful Love Story”) tracing the bride- and groom-to-be (played by Diego Martín and Leticia Dolera) from their early childhood to their engagement. We then see the wedding itself as it is being recorded, not only by professional – and absurdly pretentious – cameraman Atún (Sr. B), but also by Koldo’s cousin Adrian (Àlex Monner) and even by Claire’s little sister Tito. “I’m going to film everything, I swear,” declares Adrian, practically announcing this film’s continuing fidelity to the ‘first-person digicam’ aesthetic that, along with clever subgenre blending and multi-story tension, elevated the first two [REC] films way above your average zombie flick.
Yet once, some 28 minutes into the film’s duration, jolly Uncle Victor (Emilio Mencheta) has started rapidly spreading his dog-bite virus, and all hell breaks loose amongst the drunken wedding party, Atún’s camera is both literally and symbolically smashed, marking the point at which [REC]3 Génesis breaks away from shakicam verité for an altogether more ‘objective’ – and conventional – mode of filmmaking. In terms of the [REC] franchise, this represents a bold departure – as does the change in setting from the previous two films’ claustrophobic apartment building – but in terms of the horror genre as a whole, this apparent innovation is in fact just a reversion to tired old tropes, stripping the franchise of precisely what once made it seem so distinctive.
There is a children’s entertainer in [REC]3 Génesis who, though dressed (more or less) as SpongeBob Squarepants, insists instead on being called ‘John Sponge’. “Well, you see, there was a copyright problem,” he explains. “We are talking about a character that’s got nothing to do with the one you’re talking about.” [REC]3 Génesis itself suffers a similar anxiety over its identity. Through its title, its use (early on) of handheld footage, and a few oblique nods to its predecessors’ plot features, this third instalment happily dons a guise associated with the [REC] brand, but is in fact its own, essentially standalone zombie movie, resembling a little too closely too many other, bogstandard zombie movies to establish its own individuality within the genre. [REC]3 Génesis acknowledges the increasing stalenesss of ‘found footage’, but fails to find anything new with which to replace this format, while also jettisoning the genuine frights of the earlier [REC] films for a not altogether successful blend of black comedy, Eighties-style gore and, yes, romance.
Romance? Well, [REC]3 Génesis never quite forgets its initial promise to be “A Wonderful Love Story”, tracing its marital pair’s undying love (amidst the undead), and even allowing Koldo to transform into a chivalrous knight (complete with shield, sword and full suit of armour) while Claire becomes a wrathful, chainsaw-wielding bride (“This is my day!”, she repeats furiously, bloodily dispatching yet another shuffling wedding crasher). Yet this too merely reduces the film to rom-zom-com, which is a long way from [REC] and [REC]2, but not so very far from Return of the Living Dead III, My Boyfriend’s Back and Boy Eats Girl. Meanwhile, Koldo and Clara’s dilemma as a couple – stay or split? – is reflected in the fact that this is the first film in the franchise to be directed only by Paco Plaza, while his regular co-director Jaume Balagueró will return to helm solo the franchise’s fourth and final entry, [REC]4 Apocalypse. Still, judging by this tepid outing, there may not be so many keen viewers left to see the franchise through to its end time.
© Anton Bitel