Thursday, September 06, 2012

REC 3 Loses the Shaky Cam

It sounds awful to have the undead terrorizing your wedding, but at least that means there is a priest on hand.  Indeed, it turns out a good Father is useful to have around when it comes to holding off the zombie hordes in Placo Plaza’s [REC] 3 (trailer here), the third and penultimate installment of the Spanish walking dead franchise, which opens tomorrow in New York.

Clara and Koldo are meant for each other.  She has something important to tell him, but they are unable to get five minutes of peace together, even before the zombies attack.  Cousin Adria and Atun, a professional videographer, are recording the wedding and reception, in established [REC] style.  Uncle Victor does not look so good though.  He was bitten by a dog or something.  Then he starts biting people and they start biting people, and so on and so on.

Poor Clara and Koldo get separated in carnage, but they are determined to get back together.  The bride in particular is willing to do what it takes to find her groom.  Why yes, that is a chainsaw she’s carrying.  The Padre is also helpful, keeping the unholy multitude at bay with prayer.  As in the previous film, there is a religious element to [REC] 3 that distinguishes the series from the zombie pack.

Shockingly, Plaza breaks format early in the second act, abandoning the found footage motif in favor of a traditional omniscient viewpoint.  While shaky cam can be annoying, Plaza and Jaime Balaguer√≥, co-director of the first two RECs, have a good handle on how to use it.  More than a gimmick, in the previous films, they shrewdly used the video-camera POV to control the audience’s perspective, literally keeping them in the dark at times, which rather works in context.  After all, things seen fleetingly out of the corner of the eye are always more unnerving than well lit but ridiculously over the top soundstage shots.

At times, [REC] 3 also goes for laughs, relatively successfully.  The wedding setting is an inspired set-up device.  Hasn’t everyone been to a reception that was totally dead but refused to die?  [REC] 3 is like that except more so.  Plaza and his leads also sell the newlyweds’ earnest devotion fairly convincingly.  Diego Martin’s Koldo is a bit of a bland screen presence, but he develops some presentable chemistry with Leticia Doleria, as the power tool wielding Clara.  As horror heroines go, she certainly has her moments.

There are some clever bits in [REC] 3 that should satisfy zombie fans, but it is the weakest link of the series, so far (whereas [REC 2] was the high water mark).  It will be interesting to see what happens when Balaguer√≥ assumes the solo helm of the forthcoming and final [REC] 4.  The comedic elements are fine, but he should probably stick to the franchise format.  Still, for those who enjoy gore and black humor with a touch of Catholicism, [REC] 3 delivers just enough.  Recommended for the core fanbase, the stand-alone [REC] 3: Genesis opens tomorrow (9/7) in New York at the Cinema Village.