The first two [•REC] films were of a pair, following the same story of a late-night TV crew, a couple of firefighters and police officers, and the terrified residents of an apartment who discover they've been labeled a health hazard and locked inside. The found footage flicks were co-directed by Jaume Balagueró and Paco Plaza, and were a huge success for Filmax, which excitedly greenlit two more sequels on the strength of [•REC]²'s box office performance. The twist: this time, neither film would be found footage, and Balagueró and Plaza would direct each film separately. [•REC]³: Genesis is Plaza's effort; Balagueró's [•REC]⁴: Apocalypse is slated to shoot in early 2013.
Fans of franchises are always resistant to significant change, but let's get this out of the way upfront: there's nothing wrong with [•REC]³'s stylistic change in principle. Although the premise is built into the title, there are plenty of ways Plaza could've naturally played with and branched out beyond the format. All artists strive for freedom and new ideas, and if Plaza and Balagueró feel that found footage no longer has anything to offer them or the series creatively, it's understandable and commendable that they want to try something different.
At the same time, while it's fine in theory, it stinks in execution, because Genesis first spends a significant amount of time refusing to commit to its new style, then fails to do anything particularly interesting with it once it does. The movie opens with the nice, tongue-in-cheek selection of the "PLAY" option on a wedding video DVD, but the segment of raw footage that follows goes on way too long before the title finally comes up and the film jumps to a traditional narrative style. Personally, the second film in the series was most interesting, because it developed its baddies beyond generic zombies and into an interesting demon-zombie hybrid. Although Plaza has the creatures tear apart the wedding with a little flair (some of them literally fly out of the projection screen in the dance hall), the new technique reverses some of that creativity, trading first-person intensity for standard zombie death scenes. Plaza also ignores perfect opportunities to integrate some series flavor by refusing to cut to cell phone cameras, security cam feeds, etc., which feels like a big missed opportunity.
Some of this could be forgiven if [•REC]³ fully represented the change of tone it also seems to want to go for: the time-tested transition from horror into horror-comedy. There's plenty of comic potential in nervous Clara and wimpy Koldo's journey to becoming demon-slaughtering badasses, but Plaza and his writers spend more time on the mechanics of keeping them separated from one another (the film's conflict) than the characters themselves, who remain woefully underdeveloped. Business with Koldo putting on a suit of armor and the package shot of Clara wielding a chainsaw really don't amount to anything, much less Army of Darkness-style mayhem. Plaza also sets up fun characters like Koldo's younger cousin Adrian (Àlex Monner) and goofy cameraman Atun (Borja Glez. Santaolalla) and then basically forgets about them once the mayhem starts.
Although the first 40 or 50 minutes of [•REC]³ are tolerable and keep the viewer hopeful the film has a bigger plan up its sleeve, that hope slowly dissipates as the film drags on into the second half, where the characters suddenly get dumber and dumber, whittling away goodwill and patience by taking an eternity to make obvious decisions. If there was any chance of the film working even as a curiosity piece for fans, it's definitely gone long before the film crawls to an inevitable conclusion, becoming outright annoying in the last 15 minutes as a final insult. Plaza may have had good intentions with this one, but the result is definitely more "red-headed step-child" than "intriguing twist."
The Video and Audio
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 is fine but unimpressive, delivering across all channels but never really blowing my socks off. Perhaps more interesting things were being done in the previous two films, but the roaring and gnashing of teeth all seems fairly middle-of-the-road to me. Some bassy echoes during the wedding footage are nicely evocative, but that's about it. English subtitles and English captions for the deaf and hard of hearing are provided.
A promo for Blu-Ray and trailers for Quarantine 2: Terminal, Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning, Resident Evil: Damnation, and "Breaking Bad": Season 4 play before the main menu. No trailer for [•REC]³: Genesis is included.