It’s doubtful that cinema will ever tire of using zombies as villains in horror. There’s something terrifying on a primal level about being outnumbered and surrounded by creatures that want to eat you. That fear is taken to a higher level when those creatures are other humans and, worse, people you may know. On the other side are the survivors who reveal their bright or dark colors in this unthinkable situation. Who will turn into a hero, and who will turn into a coward? Evidently, the zombie concept is fertile territory to sow wonderful explorations of the human condition. REC 3: Genesis doesn’t necessarily do that – it leans more towards the fun side of horror – but it’s still one of the best zombie films in recent memory.
Clara and Koldo (Leticia Dolera and Diego Martín) are getting married. They have a large wedding, so it seems like every family member they’ve ever had is there, including Koldo’s uncle, who arrives at the ceremony with a dog bite on his hand. He explains that he thought the dog was dead, but it suddenly came to life and attacked him. Later in the evening, Koldo’s uncle is spotted vomiting and then finally attacking another guest. When he’s pulled off the victim, it’s obvious that he’s been turned into a flesh-hungry monster. When other “turned” guests burst into the room, pandemonium breaks loose, and Clara and Koldo are separated, but neither refuse to abandon the other, electing instead to face seemingly insurmountable odds in order to reunite.
One of the many charms of REC 3: Genesis is its hybrid construction composed of “found footage” and traditional footage. The entire first act is presented as the video on the happy couple’s wedding DVD. Only after the guests are scattered and the professional videographer’s camera is broken does the film switch to the omniscient camera. The decision to begin the film in this manner is a smart and refreshing choice that feels more organic than gimmicky. All of the necessary characters are introduced, and the plot is set up nicely, without any strained expositional dialogue. Only one camera-centric scene feels forced: A group of survivors use a handheld’s night vision mode to see their way through a dark air duct. Since there are no scares during this scene, all the terrified expressions in the camera’s viewfinder are rendered unnecessary.
The tone of the film is surprisingly fun in an Evil Dead or Shaun of the Dead way. This is mainly due to all of the interesting characters, like the videographer who likens himself to famous film directors, or the SpongeBob SquarePants knockoff hired to entertain the kids. The main characters, Clara and Koldo, are fantastic to watch as well, and their determination to find each other is wonderful to experience. On a side note, Leticia Dolera as Clara takes the crown from Mila Jovovich’s Alice for sexiest zombie slayer. The situations the survivors find themselves in are also handled in a light, refreshing manner. In one scene, a survivor finds himself in a kitchen, fighting off a zombie. Rather than use the most obvious weapon in the room, the man uses kitchen tools. In another scene, a survivor discovers medieval armor and weapons in a church, which he dons to become a knight rushing back into the fray to find other survivors. Moments like these pepper the film, and will definitely elicit a few cheers from the audience, but unfortunately they are short-lived and don’t quite take their conceits far enough.
There’s a fair amount of gore to consume in REC 3: Genesis, but nothing too unexpected for the genre. There are mauls, limb-severing, decapitations, shootings and more. Most of the over-the-top violence, however, is presented almost out of curiosity and experimentation. In one scene with a chainsaw, it seems obvious that the filmmakers wanted to show all the different ways the human body could be bisected.
Finally, it’s worth pointing out that there is a strong religious element in the film. As one character explains, the zombies can’t enter a church and are injured by holy water. A priest also seems to be able to keep the monsters at bay. It’s rare to see religion having any kind of potency in this kind of film and it’s a nice change of pace without feeling preachy.
REC 3: Genesis has all the hallmarks of a fantastic zombie movie and all the makings of a great film regardless of genre. It has a strong cast, sympathetic characters, smart direction and a solid script. Only a few nitpicky criticisms keep this film from being perfect, but that shouldn’t deter any lover of fine cinema or well-done horror from watching this movie.