Shout! Factory's genre imprint Scream Factory has recently released four-disc Blu-ray set of the [REC] films. The first came out in 2007 and became a sensation. Directed by both Jaume Balagueró and Paco Plaza, REC starred Manuela Velasco as Angela, a young reporter (with her camera person) just following around a small team of firefighters on the overnight shift for her program.
Nothing out of the ordinary happens for a bit --- until it DOES, and then all hell breaks loose within the apartment complex they visit. They become sealed in by the authorities, who will shoot them if they try to escape. Meanwhile, several residents exhibit seriously scary --- and murderous --- behavior.
The haunted house quality of this film was made even scarier by the found footage techniques, used quited well. The rage-filled, bleeding, screaming inhabitants in this apartment were the direct descendants of the rage virus-induced, running zombies in 28 Days Later, released just five years previous.
Of course, the REC films are an entirely different beast; the fiends are confined within one building, rather than all of London and beyond, and REC spawned a full-fledged franchise with three sequels and two American remakes (Quarantine and its sequel). The original Spanish film ended with a terrifying sequence that still chills. If you've seen the film, you know what I'm talking about. And I'm hard as hell to scare.
REC 2 builds on the discovery of the Medeiro "girl" and the other assorted revelations found in the penthouse. Now, the story, which takes place mere minutes after the first film ends, takes on a darkly religious tone. The Medeiro girl has been possessed and locked away in the penthouse, and it's revealed that the demonic possession is not only an unholy happening, but it's also a virus --- which the Church might be able to develop an antidote from, if they can get the girl's blood.
Happily, REC 2 is a fantastic sequel that manages to do nearly the impossible, and surpass the original. This film is a total roller coaster ride with lots of inventive ideas and a great script. No one is really who they seem, and lots of thrills and scares abound. It's great fun.
From there, REC 3: Genesis decides to shed the video camera angle early on in the proceedings, and go the more traditional route. Couple Clara (Leticia Dolera) and Koldo (Diego Martin) tie the knot in a fancy ceremony at a villa that likely cost many pretty pennies. They're quite in love, and the film does an excellent job of setting up these characters so that you're invested in them. The actors really carry the film here, doing a fantastic job --- they carry the film entirely, and REC 3 wouldn't have worked half as well if not for their skills in making you forget that they're acting. (An aside: Dolera is married to director Paco Plaza, whom I briefly met last year at Morbido 2017 during one of the festival's filmmaker outings.)
REC 4: Apocalypse is where the franchise finally ran out of steam for me. On a ship carrying survivors from the previous films, especially Angela, things get confined... and about as murky as the dark waters they sail upon. There's a team of doctors who are getting around to making the antidote to this demonic possession virus --- except that the religous themes are dialed way down in favor of science.
There's a fast, rage-filled monkey (hmmm, shades of 28 Days Later again), which gets loose and begins attacking everyone, because of course it does. There's a red herring or two, and then a race to see if they can save the world and make an antidote before the virus spreads everywhere (hence the on-the-ship-in-the-middle-of-the-ocean-precaution). Lots of people seem to like the film, so to each his/her own.
On each disc, the films all look and sound great. You could spend days shifting through the special features alone in this set. There are "making of" featurettes, deleted and extended scenes, so many interviews, set walk-throughs, lots of behind-the-scenes footage, trailers, stills, and more. My favorites were watching the special effects crew apply prosthetics and make up to children for REC 2, as well as watching Plaza and Balagueró and their production team use Lego-like children's toys for the planning and logistics of the film's action (also for REC 2).
DISC ONE: [REC]
DISC TWO: [REC] 2
DISC THREE: [REC] 3: GENESIS
DISC FOUR: [REC] 4: APOCALYPSE
This exhaustive set is a worthy addition to any REC or horror film fan's collection. Find out more over at Scream Factory's site here.