Tuesday, October 8, 2013

[Rec] 3: Genesis (2012)

[Rec] 3 is kind of all over the place. I can't tell if it wants to be a horror film, an action flick, or a romantic drama. It doesn't even stick to the found footage format, shamelessly ditching that conceit twenty minutes into the piece. Still, it's hard to hate this movie, because it has a tongue-in-cheek stylishness that you can't help but smile at. But as a film that follows in the footsteps of the harrowing and groundbreaking [Rec], you can't help but be more than a little disappointed, too. I want to say that I'd have liked it better if it took itself a little more seriously, but honestly, when I started to watch it, I was thinking to myself, how could they possibly match, let alone top, the brilliance of the first [Rec]? So perhaps the filmmakers did the right thing by going in a different direction, and instead of competing against the series' prior brilliance, decided to use the framework they'd built up to poke a little fun at themselves.

[Rec] 3: Genesis isn't actually a prequel or an origin story, as you might surmise from the title, but appears to be a parallel encounter that developed from the same source that resulted in the events of [Rec]. This time, the infection breaks out during a wedding reception. The larger, open area kind of eliminates the claustrophobic feeling of the previous films in this series. One positive thing I can say about this movie is that the makeup effects are really good. Unfortunately, the religious elements from [Rec] 2 are still in effect here (somehow, making churches impenetrable fortresses of safety undermines the despair of a zombie outbreak). Actually, rereading my [Rec] 2 review, it seems that the filmmakers were intent on giving the series an over-the-top, fantasy-tinged style even then. With that in mind, it becomes more apparent than ever that the brilliance of the original [Rec] may have actually been a fluke...

My initial impression of the film ditching the found footage angle was pretty negative, but then I started thinking about how useful a dual approach could be. One of the trickiest parts of making a found footage movie is explaining (or choosing not to explain) why somebody is going around taping everything you're watching. Personally, I understand it as one of the inherent limitations of the format, and am therefore pretty forgiving of filmmakers as long as they have some kind of plausible set-up (I tend to include that as part of the film's suspension of disbelief). (However, I could really do without the required "why are you taping this, put the camera down!" exchange - I guess its supposed goal is to establish a sympathetic rapport with the audience, but in my opinion all it does is point your attention to a flaw you're probably better off not focusing on).

I had actually been thinking earlier that it might be a suitable experiment to create a film that mixes traditional film-making with the found footage style, for example by recording the narrator in a traditional style, to frame the found footage, that is then presented within the framework of the greater movie. Let's be honest, after you've seen one or two found footage films, you no longer buy the whole "this is really real" baloney. However, the first person perspective does still lend a realism that is particularly effective in scaring audiences (i.e., is great for horror). So, I don't see why you couldn't integrate it into an otherwise regular film. Regardless, the way the format switch is used in [Rec] 3 is far from effective - the change is too jarring, and the fact that both perspectives are used to document the same scenario emphasizes the artifice of the technique.

[Rec] 3: Genesis is not a terrible movie - I may have actually appreciated it more than [Rec] 2, in the end. But it's not a great movie, either, and you're in a much better position to enjoy it if you go into it understanding that it's an over-the-top, tongue-in-cheek zombie flick (i.e., more parts Dead Alive than Night of the Living Dead), and not expecting anything remotely approaching the brilliance and horror of the first [Rec].

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