SXSW 2012 Review: [REC]3: GENESIS Brings the Gore -- and Shifts in Method and Tone

Peter Martin, Managing Editor

Ah, true love. There's nothing like it. The angels descend from heaven to sing about true love. And it's true love that has united Koldo and Clara in holy matrimony, and to celebrate, they have invited a few hundred of their closest friends to attend their wedding, with a reception to follow.

Ah, if only Uncle Pepe Victor, a veterinarian, hadn't been bitten by a dog, a dog that was supposed to be dead, a dog that woke up from death to bite poor Uncle Pepe Victor on the hand ...

In [REC]3: Genesis, filmmaker Paco Plaza builds on the franchise he helped create, while also mocking (sometimes not so gently) the very idea of found-footage thrillers, inserting a level of self-aware humor that turns the third installment into a very different beast than the first two films. The fear and tension are dialed down, though Plaza still brings the gore, perhaps at a more cartoonish level than before.

This time, the point of view does not come exclusively from herky-jerky found footage, which will gladden the heart of many. On the flip side, that serves to disengage any personal connection to the characters; as the perspective changes -- for no apparent reason -- from found footage to conventional cinematic objectivity, we're constantly aware that we're watching a movie.

The initial tone makes the movie feel like it will be the first telenovela with zombies. The swampy romance of a wedding-video montage sets up the "true love" shared by Clara (Leticia Dolera) and Koldo (Diego Martin), before giving way to professional footage shot by film-literate cameraman Atun and amateur footage photographed by young Adrian (Alex Monner). Throughout the early scenes, very obvious foreshadowing is provided -- everything from Uncle Pepe Victor's "dead" dog bit to an intimate secret that Clara is harboring to an very, very long sword used to cut the wedding cake.

Even with the knowing winks and loving homages littered throughout, the shift to zombie carnage is effectively handled in a nearly-realistic manner, as the reception hall becomes a bloody battlefield. Clara and Koldo get separated in the madness, but, of course, are resolved to be together again.

They can 'sense' one another, so each knows the other is alive.

The "true love" aspect of the story has a degree of sincerity, but probably a larger dollop of florid melodrama -- thus the telenovela reference -- complete with swelling romantic music on the soundtrack. In any event, it gives the movie a throughline, allowing Plaza to hang a Bible-based explanation onto the zombie uprising. The Scriptural aspects may not truly convince, but they serve to expand the mythology and, more than likely, lay the groundwork for the next installment, [REC] Apocalypse, to be directed by Jaume Balaguero.

What remains is a lot of zesty fun, very satisfying for what it is, with a multitude of gory kills and the promise of eternal love to get Clara and Koldo through a very dark night.

[REC]3: Genesis enjoyed its Word Premiere before a sold-out crowd at SXSW last night. It screens again on Wednesday, March 14.

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