Joshua Reviews Paco Plaza’s [Rec] 3: Genesis [SXSW 2012]

Found footage films are the film world’s new black.

Over the past five years or so, everyone and their gore-hunting mother have been on the hunt for the next great found footage film, and while some have tried and failed (yes, I’m looking at you The Devil Inside), a few occasionally stick one hell of a terrifying landing.   And then there are the [Rec] films.

Truly the mark to which every other found footage horror film is graded, both films in this beloved franchise are distressing and aggressive bits of horror filmmaking.   However, director Paco Plaza and his cast and crew for the third film [REC] 3: Genesis, have decided to try and fix something that didn’t seem all that broken.   And despite its flaws, it shockingly works damn well.

Genesis follows the story of Clara and Koldo, newlyweds on their wedding day.   The epitome of a loving couple, the pair seem to be having the storybook wedding night.   Drunken uncles abound, cheesy couple dances, and adorable youngsters, there is literally nothing that could seemingly go wrong.   Until everything does.   When it is discovered that the aforementioned drunken uncle is infected with the zombie disease found in the first two films, the proverbial fan gets covered in fecal matter, and what was the classic wedding now becomes a wedding from hell, in every way imaginable.

Plaza, co-director on the first two films, goes in a different direction with Genesis, deciding to, after the films first act (so this is not a spoiler, read the description), ditch the first person perspective, giving the film a wholly new aesthetic, when taken as part of the greater mythology of this franchise.   Spending legitimately the film’s first 20-25 minutes setting up both the players here, and the events, the style not only plays into the substance structurally, but intellectually as well.   Allowing for Plaza to seemingly exorcise a few demons, really playing with the trappings of the genre that he has helped to popularize in the modern cinematic landscape, the third person perspective both aids and hinders the film.

Plaza does have a strong directorial hand here, giving us a great introduction to the chaos via the first person photography, but allowing for the romance of the second and third acts really blossom with the broader, more cinematic style found in these latter moments.   The gore is fantastically in your face here, and the cinematography is top notch.   Very rigorous in its structure, Plaza’s assurance in his own skill is not without merit, as he handles the blend of genres so well.   The film plays as a straight horror film, but when the comedic beats are put in place, they add such a great breath of fresh air to a franchise that is otherwise stuffed with dread, terror and impending doom.   Toss in a believable and engaging romance, and you’ve got the makings of a fine feature horror film.

And the cast is killer to boot. Leticia Dolera and Diego Martin are great here as our Clara and Koldo, both having great solo moments (the former is very much inspired by a character like The Evil Dead‘s Ash, particularly near the end), but it is when they are on screen together that their chemistry truly adds a sense of truth to an otherwise cartoonish little film. Ismael Martinez adds some really fun comedic beats to the film, as does Alex Monner as Adrian.   Truly, for a film based during a wedding, the film gives us a cavalcade of fleshed out, if broad, characters, and this script gives them all the respect they deserve.

However, the film is not without its flaws.   The bastard son of the franchise, the change in tone may ultimately make for an entertaining film, but it also makes the film feel out of place.   Almost no connection to the previous entries, Genesis is oddly paced and the final act induced so many eye rolls that you’ll be hard pressed to get them to stop until a while after you walk out.   Your run of the mill horror film, this piece is neither as original as the film would think itself to be, nor as terrifying as its brethren. Stuck in a weird purgatory of horror, the jump scares work, but pacing issues make this film oddly problematic.

Overall, Genesis is a fine horror film.   Fun, entertaining, and at moments insistently scary, the film makes up for its lack of patented dread by adding in even more comedy and romance.   A blood-filled crowd pleaser, the film may be poorly paced and cliché ridden, but it’s also funny as hell and audaciously gorey.  

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