The [rec] franchise returns to the big screen and continues its mayhem amongst Spanish citizens. [rec] 3 Genesis is the latest installment in the series, revitalizing the zombie genre with a couple of interesting new twists while at the same time paying homage to existing and reigning genre cliches. The result is a fun-filled zombie flick that may stray a little from its predecessors, but remains true to the overall quality of the series.
The first two films ([rec], [rec] 2) were joint efforts, directed by both Balagueró and Plaza. For the final two films the directors decided to each handle a film of their own. This is quite essential to understanding this third film, as Plaza is known to inject his horror films with a dash of comedy (make sure you check his entry in the Peliculas para No Dormir series). Because of that [rec] 3 is not a straight horror flick, but a pleasant mix of zombie action with comedy moments thrown in for good measure. The tension that defined the first two films is mostly gone, firmly replaced by girl power action and a few jabs at genre cliches.
While there are a few elements that link [rec] 3 to the first two films, this third film exists mostly on its own. We say goodbye to the house where the events of the first two films unfolded, instead we join a young couple on their wedding day. After an incredibly cheesy PowerPoint montage of cute and embarrassing pictures of the young couple, the film takes off near the wedding church. Hand-held cameras ready, a team of pros is bound to be documenting the wedding from A to Z(ombie).
All remains calm until the families arrive at the evening party, a rather luxurious estate that will prove a great playground for some zombie bashing. Before long it is revealed that one of the uncles wasn't really bitten by a dog after all and just moments later the estate is crawling with blood-lusting creatures. The newlyweds get separated in the chaos and will give it their all to beat the zombies that spoiled their special day.
Even though the first part of the film remains true to its found footage origins, around halfway through Plaza is clearly fed up with the whole hand-held concept. He ditches his camera crew and switches back to more traditional film techniques. It's a choice that has less effect on the film than you would imagine, probably because Plaza feels very comfortable filming in both styles. While the first part of the film makes you feel like you're part of the wedding, the second half is more stylized and makes better use of its environment, making room for some very impressive shots and great camera angles. The underground sequence in particular kicks ass. It's real nice to see a zombie flick with great production values that are used to their fullest effect (for a change).
The soundtrack is prime quality material. Sure enough it's made up of pop songs for the larger part (mostly songs playing during the wedding party), but just like the first two films the audio manipulation is superb and spot on. The remainder of the soundtrack is a not as in-your-face, but does a very good job setting the mood. That and the fact that for once the zombies sound more like menacing brain-munching killers instead of grunting old people who have trouble gobbling down their food.
And the acting too is of high quality. Diego Martin is great as the groom, but it's Leticia Dolera (as the bride) that gets the best scenes here. From the moment she's ripping apart her wedding dress using a roaring chainsaw, she barges through the film as one big, menacing lump of girl power who will be stopped by no-one. The supporting cast is equally successful, though I'll admit that most of them are aided by some great zombie make-up.
Even though the change of setting and camera style may be serious hurdles for fans of the series who aren't flexible enough to let the [rec] films evolve, the biggest shock will come in the form of the comedy elements that are scattered throughout the film. The humor is actually quite fun and introduces some great moments (SpongeJohn and the stealth-knights), but once things get serious Plaza is quick to pick up the pace, avoiding the traps many other horror/comedies fall into. The horror and gore is still top-notch, the comedy scenes are merely interludes to brighten the atmosphere a little.
[rec] 3 is easily the most fun I've had in cinemas in months. Sure enough this has something to do with the awful selection of film that disgrace Belgian cinema screens week after week, but it's also because Plaza knows how to deliver a fun, action-filled zombie flick that harbors some kick-ass gore and a few very funny moments. I guess Balagueró will provide the series with a real ending that remains true to the first two films, but as a way of getting there [rec] 3 is a very worthwhile successor to the previous two films. Highly recommended, especially when you can watch it on the big screen.