[REC] 4: Apocalypse (2014)

JANUARY 1, 2015


The last film in the series polarized folks, so if you hated it you will probably be happy to know [REC] 4: Apocalypse drops the humor for a more straightforward zombie tale, albeit again without the found footage/POV conceit that the title refers to. As a result, this film is somewhat indistinguishable from any number of post 28 Days Later zombie movies, with only the setting (a boat) giving it some identity and the grand return of Ángela Vidal to justify it as a series entry. And to do the latter, they have to undo the ballsy development in [Rec] 2, so boo on that. The 3rd film's splatter humor (and shot at the first two films' aesthetic) might have annoyed some fans, but I'd rather that than just another zombie movie when we already have too many - the film simply has no hook.

Wait, doesn't it have an apocalypse, you might ask? Nope, the plot quite frustratingly picks up right where the 2nd film left off, which itself was immediately after the first, so not enough time has passed for a true apocalypse (so the title as a whole refers to nothing, I guess). It's been 7-8 years in production time but only like 24-48 hours have passed since Angela first entered the apartment building in the first film, which would be interesting and could work beautifully in an anthology series but a bit weird when you have an older looking Manuela Velasco watching footage she just recorded a day or two before. I know I love the Saw series for bending over backwards to present a serialized continuity, but it's not entirely necessary for this franchise - they even include a character from the 3rd film (one of the wedding guests who went back to her room to lie down and missed all the chaos, if memory serves), like most fans would care if it had been ignored as a diversion, the same way the Nightmare on Elm St series pretended the 2nd film never happened.

And not for nothing, but at least when it's a POV movie the shaky-cam shit makes sense - there's a fight in a hallway here that I literally found incomprehensible due to Jaume Balagueró's frenetic camerawork, as if he forgot that he was supposed to be filming it traditionally and was mimicking a character in the fracas. To me, it seems the best reason to drop the POV angle is to open things up and make your film look more like a real movie, but he doubles down and does it when there's no justification for it. Like, Michael Bay will do his swooping/circling camera stuff over a scene of two people talking because he wants to keep the energy up, but why do we need this sort of thing during a giant zombie attack? You can lock the camera down from a half mile away and it will still generate excitement.

But if you're just in the mood for traditional, contained zombie action, and just judge it on its own terms, it should more or less hit the spot. The shaky-cam crap aside, it's certainly well made, and I've longed for a ship-set undead massacre (I thought the 3rd Cabin Fever movie was all on a boat, which would have been a good substitute, but it wasn't, on any level) so that was nice to see. Velasco is a lovely presence, so even though they undo her status as a possessed person (the possession angle is expanded on here) it's nice to have her around again, eventually diving into full blown action heroine mode as she makes her way through the totally infected ship along with the male hero. And said male protagonist was a fun character, and you probably wouldn't have pegged him as the last man standing based on his introduction, so at least the movie offered one surprise.

Well, two surprises. There's a zombie monkey. But not ENOUGH zombie monkey action; it's just there to spruce up some action before returning to status quo. Still, if I don't mention the fucking monkey someone will complain, so there you go.

Oh, and watching with subs was funny, because the characters repeatedly say "Vamos!" but the subtitle guy clearly got bored translating that to the same thing every time, so he offered all of the acceptable translations, rotating them so us readin' folk wouldn't get bored. "Come on!" "Let's go!" "GO!", etc. But that also made me start thinking about the English remake, and how it spawned its own non-found footage, single location sequel (the airport-set Quarantine 2), which I derided for the same reason: it was too anonymous in a sea of like-minded films in this sub-genre. I'd argue that [Rec] 3's wedding setting and weirdo humor (Sponge-John!) gave it enough of its own identity, but there's nothing really like that here - why is Balagueró (and co-writer Manu Díez, also from [Rec] 2) guilty of the same thing as the bland DTV American version of this franchise?

Of course, the missing name from that group is Paco Plaza, who co-directed the first two (best) films with Balagueró. Again, I liked the 3rd one, but maybe solo efforts for this series aren't ideal, as I think we can all agree the first two are the best (I just looked at the IMDb board for this one, and it seems the response is once again highly polarized). The door is left open for a sequel again (and a new strain of zombie, as it infects a fish), if one comes to pass hopefully they reunite and do something a little more interesting, and maybe finish it off for good. Whether it's a return to the POV style or just a narrative that elevates it above whatever crap we pass over on Netflix recommendations, I don't care - I just want this to be the one weak point in an otherwise exciting series.

What say you?


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