Review: Toronto After Dark Film Festival – Rec 3: Genesis
[Rec] (2007) and [Rec]2 (2009) are both pure motion machines, almost literally; the aggressive found footage style used by directors Paco Plaza and Jaume Balaguerò featured a first-person camera that felt as if it was propelling itself through a never-ending nightmare. In [Rec], the camera seems to have a disembodied agency. Even though we’re aware that a videographer guides it, we rarely see him, and can therefore identify most successfully with the camera. We become that camera for ninety terrifying minutes, and because the nightmarish ride we take is a short one, the lack of elements like character development don’t matter. [Rec]2 pulls the same trick, despite there being many more cameras involved–the ride still seems to be a highly subjective one, and it works because of its ever-escalating intensity. In short, the camera is everything in the [Rec] films. Plaza’s choice to use a more traditional narrative style for this third entry is mostly why [Rec]3: Genesis isn’t nearly as successful as its predecessors.
Like the first two [Rec] films, the raging demonic zombies are a formidable threat. They still retain some of their frightening character despite [Rec]3: Genesis‘ light tone. This film may not be nearly as scary as the first two, but the zombies still have the ability to shock. But sadly, they just aren’t as interesting here. If [Rec]3: Genesis had simply been a standalone zombie film unassociated with the trilogy, it likely wouldn’t have been as much of a letdown. [Rec]2 developed the mythology of the zombies very effectively; their true nature was genuinely surprising. So Plaza’s choice not to evolve them further in this entry is disappointing, and it makes the proceedings somewhat dull. Moreover, a significant inconsistency rears its head in the last act. In [Rec]2, a priest escorted a SWAT team into the contaminated apartment, and sometimes held the zombies at bay with crucifixes and intense prayers. In [Rec]3: Genesis, another priest discovers that the zombies become momentarily incapacitated by something as stupidly simple as quoting any passage from the Bible, a weakness that was strangely absent before.
[Rec]3: Genesis feels like a more comedic version of the first film. There are moments of mild tension and even one or two genuinely shocking scares, but Plaza’s primary goal seems to have been sprawling excess in the soap opera tradition. One could argue convincingly that the first two films, especially the second, were over the top at times. However, they were tonally consistent, whereas [Rec]3: Genesis switches moods almost at random–one moment a chainsaw wielding bride is hacking zombies apart with Spanish pop in the background, and the very next a friend of the protagonist commits suicide in a deeply tragic fashion. It was hard to remain involved throughout the film, since Plaza very rarely seemed to know which direction he should take with the material.
As is the practice at this year’s Toronto After Dark Film Festival, the short film We Ate the Children Last was screened before the main feature. Just like [Rec]3: Genesis, it was erratic tonally and underwhelming, so at least the overall show maintained a certain consistency. The concept of We Ate the Children Last is ridiculous, but interesting. Humans begin receiving pig heart transplants, which increases their well-being but has them craving garbage and, eventually, warm flesh. Torontonians discriminate against and segregate those with pig hearts–to say the least, the social commentary is anything but subtle. The biggest problem with the film is that it ends where its final act should have begun, ending on a whimper (or a snort, heh) rather than a bang.
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