JULY 22, 2012
SOURCE: THEATRICAL (ADVANCED SCREENING)
There’s a twist of sorts roughly 15 minutes into [Rec] 3 that I’m not sure if we’re supposed to “spoil”, but since I can’t see how they can even advertise it without giving it away, I guess it’s OK. But I’ll do so after the break, so if you’re just seeing this review on the main page, you won’t even catch a whiff of it. For you guys, I’ll just say that this is a departure for the series that is quite entertaining and gory, but will disappoint if you wanted “more of the same”.
There are two key differences this time. The first is that it’s not found footage, though they do a fine (and hilarious) job of easing the audience into that switch. As the film begins, we’re seeing everything through the lens of a guy filming his cousin’s wedding, and there’s a professional wedding video character for a second angle on the proceedings – it’s pretty much status quo, right up until the first outbreak (nicely tied into the events of the first film – this one takes place on that same night, just in a different part of the city). Then the groom notices the guy filming and questions why he would be still filming everything instead of helping, and promptly breaks the camera. It’s only then that the title comes up, and when they fade back up, we’re in traditional movie mode – director Paco Plaza even changes the aspect ratio to 2.35:1 to further cement the change, and our first shot is of the camera on the floor as it dies.
Of course, the dialogue is a bit meta, with the groom essentially saying what someone says every time they watch a found footage movie. It’s a risky move for the guy who made one of the best films in the genre, to start off a sequel by mocking the very core of the genre, but as the film proceeds you can see that it’s not even its biggest gamble. Because not only is this not a found footage movie, it’s also not a serious one either – in fact it’s pretty damn goofy, often running closer to Dead Alive territory than the relatively somber tone of the others, where humor was sparse and used to deflate the tension every now and then. Here, it’s almost the opposite – the scares work because the audience has gotten used to giggling and cheering as the bride and groom separately fight off infected family members as they attempt to reunite.
And if you think I just mean “the gore is a bit more over the top” when I say the movie is goofy, you’re not even close. One of our heroes is the guy they hired to entertain the kids at the wedding, and he’s wearing a “SpongeJohn” (SpongeBob would be copyright infringement) costume for the whole movie, which is as silly as it sounds. But there’s more - the groom dons a suit of armor he finds in the church, the bride chainsaws off the train of her dress that would slow her down after telling her friend that she only invited her to be nice (the friend says she only came because she found a cheap ticket online), and an old man’s faulty hearing aid causes problems at the most inopportune time.
Now, all of this stuff is quite amusing (and makes the movie a must-see with a crowd), but then I didn’t know what to make of certain moments that might have been kind of touching if the tone of the movie beforehand was more on the serious side. Late in the film we learn one character is pregnant, and when faced with certain death she tells her baby daddy that he would have been a good father – it’s rather sad! But the audience was laughing as if it was another example of it being super silly. Then again I still tear up at Armageddon so maybe I’m not the best person to ask about the emotional beats in silly movies.
One thing bugged me on definite level, however – the zombies themselves. This time around, they’re slow and stumble around like in a Romero film, which is the total opposite of what we saw in the other two films. In fact, even though one of the guests had a bite that could cause the breakout at the wedding, we see a few random infected jumping through the windows and running around, so I’m not sure why the rest of them are on “slow zombie” side of things. At one point they even wait around so two human characters can finish their conversation! The religious angle still applies (if anything it’s more overt than the others) so it’s clearly the same strain – wonder what prompted this change other than “eh, if we’re changing the tone/format might as well change this too.”
On that note, I’m curious if Plaza and co. are just sick of these movies and wanted to have fun. This is the most silly movie any of them have been involved with to the best of my knowledge, so it feels like they wanted to try something and figured their best chance of doing so was to shoehorn it into their established, popular franchise, not unlike how Peter Berg was only able to get his original aliens on water movie made by refashioning it into Battleship. I think it’s funny/ballsy, but I can see how die-hard fans of the series might be insulted, not unlike Michael Myers junkies who hate on Halloween III.
My only other complaint is that it was too short, running a mere 80 minutes with credits. Not that a movie has to be 90-95 to satisfy, but it feels like there are a few missing beats in the story here, particularly with regards to the rest of the wedding guests. The zombies apparently decimate all but a handful within moments, which severely limits some of the potential for the comedy they aim for. For example, the groom’s friends seem like a fun group of party animals, however all but one of them just disappear and presumably become zombies instantly. Other characters are also written out too quickly, such as the awesome Atun (the professional wedding filmographer) and “Royalties”, a guy who was there to track which songs were being played to make sure the artists were compensated (I can’t help but wonder if this was a sly joke about the filmmakers themselves, as the first [Rec] was widely available through torrent sites and such for a while before it was finally given a proper release in the US). I know there’s a 4th film coming along as well – perhaps they had to split the budget between the two? It definitely felt a bit stunted at times, like they had to trim it to the bone.
Thus, it’s definitely a movie you want to see with a crowd if you can. At home (available now via VOD), its flaws might be a bit of a hurdle, but with everyone having a good time, laughing and cheering along, it was a blast. And with so many damn found footage movies coming along, it’s nice to see one of the format’s big guns doing their part to mix things up a bit.
What say you?