Director: Paco Plaza
Cast: Leticia Dolera, Diego Martín, Javier Botet
Running time: 80 minutes
Plot: A couple’s wedding day turns into carnage when the guests become rampant, demonic killers. Separated in the chaos, bride and groom Clara and Koldo fight for survival if they are to reunite and live happily ever after…
Found-footage is dead. At least, that’s what Paco Plaza seems to be telling us. Curious, considering he made such innovative and exciting use of the format with the previous two installments of his [REC] series, succeeding where numerous others have failed. But Plaza knows found-footage has outgrown its use, and abandons the technique, changing the direction of the franchise entirely. The purists may not like it, but beneath the scares and newfound sense of humour, Plaza is making a bold statement. And it’s time both viewer and industry paid attention.
It’s not that found footage doesn’t have its uses. With its home video aesthetic and first person perspective, the format offers a sense of realism more traditional filmmaking can’t. But it also has its own inherent problems: the action may see more believable, but the source of the footage unfortunately doesn’t. Who is filming this? Why keep filming under the threat of death? And who on earth has edited it together? When the concept of a 100-foot monster is more plausible than the persistent but terminally thick camera operator, there’s a serious problem.
With the previous [REC] films, Plaza did well to avoid these questions of logic but there’s only so far he can take it. For [REC]3: GÉNESIS, he uses found footage to its major strength in the opening minutes – creating a real world and cast of characters – and ditching it as the inevitable ‘virus’ outbreak occurs. After all, what sane person would continue shooting whilst chased by the living dead. The format makes only one more appearance, when a camera is genuinely needed for its night vision function. For the first time since PARANORMAL ACTIVITY (not the sequels), the found footage approach makes sense.
This isn’t the only change to the series, as Plaza also ditches the quarantined tenement building of the previous films (integral to their winning formula), opting to place the action in a bigger but no-less claustrophobic setting. [REC]3 is also very funny – particularly for those with a sound knowledge of the horror genre – and implements a central love story, carried by the excellent Leticia Dolera and Diego Martín. Change was inevitable: Plaza directs alone this time (on the previous films he collaborated with co-creator Jaume Balagueró), and he continues what has made the series so interesting, namely its continuous reinvention of not only its own mythos but genre convention on the whole. Fans of the previous films shouldn’t fret though, this isn’t a complete detachment; rather than act as a straight sequel, the story occurs parallel to its predecessors, acting as more a ‘side-quel’ (much like THE BOURNE LEGACY). Expect more of these in the near future.
Creativity, it would seem, is the key to this ongoing and ever-changing series. To replicate the same of rubbish simply won’t do. Paco Plaza should be commended for the courage he has shown here, ditching the franchise’s key elements to revitalize his work, demonstrating that everything has a shelf life, and still making a film that’s funny, sexy, scary, and (as far as zombies can be) logical. It’s inevitable that one day someone will find a way to reinvent the found footage movie, at which point it will rise and charge around furiously, scaring the shit out of everyone in the process. But for now, let’s leave it alone to die in peace and get on with something new.
[REC]3: Génesis is available on DVD 3rd September