From the moment that the world premiere of [REC]3: Genesis at SXSW concluded, audiences have been divided. With the film poised to open on a limited basis in U.S. theatres on Friday, September 7, even more horror fans will have a chance to decide for themselves on the merits of the third installment of the zombie franchise.
In my SXSW review, I noted: "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."
The film, set at a large weddding in Spain, begins in found-footage mode:
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 bite 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.
For me, the film "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."
Others disagreed. ScreenAnarchy's Todd Brown briefly noted: "For the record, I'm on the negative side, finding the humor not funny and all the best bits lifted from better movies." And that reflects the reaction I heard from others at SXSW, resulting in some spirited late-night discussions!
Still others liked it more than I did. In his review for ScreenAnarchy, Niels Matthijs observed:
The first two films were joint efforts, directed by both [Jaume] Balagueró and Plaza. For the final two films the directors decided to each handle a film of their own. This is quite essential to understanding this third film, as Plaza is known to inject his horror films with a dash of comedy (make sure you check his entry in the Peliculas para No Dormir series).
Because of that, [REC]3 is not a straight horror flick, but a pleasant mix of zombie action with comedy moments thrown in for good measure. The tension that defined the first two films is mostly gone, firmly replaced by girl power action and a few jabs at genre cliches.
Niels concluded: "Highly recommended, especially when you can watch it on the big screen."
[REC]3: Genesis is currently available via various Video On Demand platforms in the U.S., and will open on Friday, September 7 in Albuquerque, NM; Brookline, MA; Chicago, IL; Columbus, OH; Denver, CO; Katy, TX; New York, NY; and Seattle, WA. Check the official site for theatre locations and playdates.
Don't forget your chainsaw.