May 17, 2015

[REC] 4: Apocalypse

Jaume Balaguero, 2015
[REC] 4 is the fourth installment in what was originally a found-footage zombie horror film. Ever since the first film, they have ventured out of pure found-footage style and into a more conventional approach. In the previous installment REC 3 Genesis, there almost seemed to be a deliberate dismissal of the found footage technique when the wedding cam was ditched and the rest of the film was shot normally. This film makes no effort to pay tribute to it’s found footage roots. It also joins the last film in it’s utter distance from the first two. Yes, Manuela Velasco returns in her Angela Vidal role, but it really feels like a film that has grown substantially from it’s original form and is now feels more unrelated. Almost like a family member that has moved to a different state and then returns ten years to a family BBQ. Perhaps this is because it’s the first in the series not to have Paco Plaza co-directing with Balaguero.

REC 4 might as well be called Zombies at Sea. Balaguero obtains access to a giant vessel where the entirety of the film is set. Dark hallways, constant power loss, loud engine rooms, narrow corridors provide a limited and claustrophobic setting to make things even more frantic when shit hits the fan. The inevitable outbreak is actually well timed, and it manages to work with an engaging energy through the whole movie.

One annoyance in the film is the moment where they are accusing each other of harboring the demonic parasite. We witness a scene very much like John Carpenter’s The Thing with a lot of finger pointing and "no, you have the parasite in you!", but the transfer of the parasite feels forced and wasn't really set up quite well. Sleight of hand would have been an understatement. Of course it needs the exchange to happen to have the obligatory plot twist at the end, but it should have been orchestrated better. Ultimately you know what you are going to get with the REC franchise at this point, and for the most part it delivers. The films have evolved to a point where they are much different than the original. You can assume there will be a [REC] 5 at some point down the road. Maybe they will try to capture some of that original spirit by going back to the found footage style. Or maybe not. Either way, fans of the zombie genre are quite loyal and they will probably keep coming back. We have seen a REC apartment setting, a wedding setting, now a boat setting. What next? REC 5: Lost in the Woods? REC 6: Hospital zombies? For a lot of movie franchises these frequent entries would exhaust themselves quickly, but as long as it continues to hit some of the same beats there should still be some gas in the tank with these.

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