TERROR ESPAÑOL: THE [REC] FILMS REVISITED!
Having recently treated myself to the awesome Scream Factory box set of this four film Spanish horror series, from Jaume Balagueró and Paco Plaza, I decided to revisit my reviews for each film in this chilling series…
One of the best of the post Blair Witch found footage horror movies, this Spanish fright flick starts out quietly and slowly builds the tension until a truly nerve-racking final act. The film starts quietly as a pretty reporter, Angela (Manuela Velasco) for a news team is documenting the activities of a Barcelona fire dept. She and her camera man, whose perspective we are following, go along with them on a routine call at an old apartment building involving and elderly woman. Soon they realize that something is very wrong as the old woman violently attacks them and one by one the occupants are turning vicious and homicidal, and the group falls under siege. Worse yet, the authorities have arrived and sealed them all inside the building with the increasing numbers of ‘infected” sealed in with them and a few remaining unaffected tenants.
Using the first-person camera style to draw you in, the viewer takes the perspective of Angela’s camera man and you’re along for the ride. Directors and writers, Jaume Balagueró and Paco Plaza really know how to turn the screws and use the found footage format to maximum effect. There are some really tense and violent scenes once the story gets going and you are right in the middle of it through the camera’s eye as they decide to keep documenting what is happening around them. The final scenes are done in the dark with night vision and will give you the appropriate nightmares. A top notch and quite nerve-wracking horror from Spain.
Rated 3 and 1/2 (out of 4) scared Señoritas!
This is the best trailer I could find. It doesn’t have subtitles, not that it needs them, but the film does…
[REC] 2 (2009)
Sequel to the Spanish chiller [REC] picks up right where the original left off with a SWAT team escorting a health dept. official into the sealed tenement. This enables the intensity and chills to start almost immediately, whereas the original took time to build the story and tension. And not only are we treated to more nail-biting horror as in the first film, but some new twists to the story really crank up the goose bump factor as the ‘infection’ may have a far more horrifying origin. Add to that some foolishly inquisitive teens who find a way into the building and become trapped inside with the police and the murderous zombies and the makers of the original [REC] once again put the audience through the ringer.
A sequel that manages to continue the story and up the ante at the same time. Watch for some fun cameos from some of the first flick’s characters as zombies and a sinister surprise at the climax. Another scary treat from writers and director’s Jaume Balaguer and Paco Plaza.
Rated 3 and 1/2 (out of 4) scared Señoritas!
[REC] 3: GENESIS (2012)
Since I posted about the first 2 films in this series in a recent Saturday Night Double Feature… check it out here… I thought I’d give the third flick a shout out…
I am a huge fan of the [REC] films, they are among my favorite horrors of recent years so, I was very much looking forward to this latest installment…and while it is the weakest of the series so far, that doesn’t mean I didn’t have a bloody good time. First off, [REC] 3: Genesis has the best excuse for found footage yet…a zombie outbreak at a wedding where the wedding videographer captures the horrific events, but the film also abandons the format when logic dictates the videographer no longer films and then becomes more of a routine zombie flick. That is the film’s weakness, that it is more of a generic zombie movie then the first two especially when it changes to a more straightforward format. The film is also much lighter in tone then the first two installments, as well, as it tells the story of a wedding occurring at the same time as the tenement outbreak, where guests and relatives start turning into demon possessed zombies. A lighter tone and a change of format doesn’t mean a fan of this series or of zombie flicks won’t enjoy the fun and carnage [REC] 3 throws our way. Director Paco Plaza seems to have wanted to have a little more fun with this chapter and as long as his loyal audience accepts that, they can join in the gore-soaked amusements too. The cast seem to be in on the fun and while they take their parts serious enough, there is also a quick wink to let us know that we’re lightening things up a bit this time round. Pretty lead Leticia Dolera as the blood spattered, chainsaw wielding bride, Clara especially seems to have a good time going from frightened future Mrs. to zombie killing Bridezilla. Top notch gore once again punctuates the film as with the previous two installments. Again, lesser of the three, but still blood-soaked fun!
Rated 3 (out of 4) chainsaw brides!
[REC] 4: APOCALYPSE (2014)
(Clicking the highlighted links brings you to corresponding reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)
After the fun but lighter toned [REC] 3: Genesis directed by series co-creator Paco Plaza, this Spanish horror franchise returns to its more serious roots and brings back original chapter heroine Angela Vidal (Manuela Velasco) for it’s supposed conclusion. The story picks up where [REC] 2 left off with Angela being rescued from the tenement by a team of armed soldiers and finding herself in “quarantine” on a large ship at sea housing a few other survivors, including an old woman (María Alfonsa Rosso) from the wedding in [REC] 3. The ship is filled with soldiers and scientists who claim to be testing the survivors for the lethal virus before releasing them. Unknown to the survivors and crew, though, the paramilitary team is also experimenting on an antivirus and to do that, they need the infected to test it on. When one of their test subjects is freed, the zombie plague begins to spread through the ship, which is isolated at sea, and now the lives of everyone are threatened by zombies and self-destruct protocols alike.
This final(?) installment is directed by series co-creator Jaume Balagueró, who co-wrote with Manu Diez and completely jettisons the found footage format that was used for the first two films and part of the third. The film also underplays the religious overtones while returning to a darker and more intense tone after the more playful third film. Balagueró definitely gives the proceedings some nice atmosphere and cinematographer Pablo Rosso adds to that with taking full advantage of the claustrophobic old ship it’s set on. The film never quite reaches the nail-biting intensity of the first two films, but Balagueró does gives us a very exciting and suspenseful third act when the infestation is in full swing, and our survivors are fighting the undead and each other. The film is also quite gory in the series tradition and the only thing that is somewhat disappointing is that it never feels like a climactic chapter, but just another installment. It never felt like it was a conclusion, or that it truly wrapped things up for the remaining characters…or the infestation for that matter. By downplaying the religious aspects of the zombie outbreak, it removes the need for a deeper explanation to what was initially a demon caused viral possession. Now it is just a virus that can be isolated and stopped once the host parasite is found and destroyed. It does take away a bit of the creepiness derived from the fact that the zombies were caused and guided by a malevolent demonic intelligence. There is only a brief moment where a character that hosts the parasite talks as if possessed, but it is brief and leads nowhere. Don’t get me wrong, the film still delivers a very entertaining and bloody 90 minutes and there is a very effective score by Amau Bataller to accent the action…of which there is plenty. It’s just the film never gives the viewer the closure they need to bid farewell to this franchise, if it truly is the end. We needed something stronger and something that felt more final.
The cast are all very good, from sexy heroine Manulela Velasco who can get just as vicious as any zombie when she needs to. Paco Manzanedo is a solid hero as Guzmán, the soldier that saves Angela from the tenement and earns himself a voyage on the ship/lab. Héctor Colomé is appropriately slimy and intense as Dr. Ricarte, who has been following this outbreak from its inception and seems to have his own agenda. As for the supporting players, all do solid work whether good guy, bad guy, human or zombie and having a strong cast goes far in making this as good as it is.
Overall, I liked [REC] 4 very much, but was just slightly disappointed that it chose to side-step some of the more interesting religious aspects of the initial story developed over the first three films. By doing away with the found footage formula, it both freshens it up and takes away one of the more unique aspects of the series and now it’s a routine zombie flick, though a very good one. As a conclusion, it didn’t have the weight and finality that once expects from a final chapter, but overall, it is a suspenseful and gory good time. Maybe not a completely worthy finale, but a very solid and entertaining installment in an overall quality horror series and a return to form after the lighter third chapter.
Rated 3 (out of 4) outboard motors.