Horror 365, Movie(s) 192: The [REC] Series

By and large, I’m not the biggest zombie fan out here. I’ve got my favorites, but the genre has become so zombie-saturated that it’s reaching critical mass. Once we get past, I dunno, about 1995 or so, it takes something at least a little new and different to get my attention at all must less hold it. There are, of course, some stand outs.

However, one series in particular gnaws its way close to the top for me: the [REC] movies. I ran an initial draft of this post past a, well let’s call her a, uh, “colleague” of mine:

The [REC] series is 4 zombie movies. The first one is fantastic, the second is good, the third is not so great but isn’t as bad as people say it is, and the fourth iiiizzzzz…okay.

Her response was, “As one of your readers, I’d want this a little more fleshed out, and I don’t mean that as a zombie reference.” Oh, but it so totally is one. I asked if she could elaborate for another 600 words or so. She declined, so here’s my fleshed out version.

[REC]

I can scarce overstate how much I love this movie. If it’s not my favorite zombie flick, it’s certainly in the Top 5. Partly this is because the movie was shot in Barcelona. I’ve been a few places over the years. I very much liked Russia and thought “Yeah, I could visit St. Petersburg with some frequency.” In Ireland, I thought, “Yeah, I could stay here a few months at a time.” But in Barcelona. Wow. I’ve never been anywhere that made me think, “Yeah, I don’t ever need to leave here for the rest of my life.”

None of this has anything to do with the movie. I just had a nostalgia. And anyway I saw [REC] long before I went to Spain, and it was already really damn good. Ángela, a reporter for TV show called While You Were Sleeping, is doing a story on a city firehouse and the firefighters therein. She and the crew go along to record the emergency response to a call involving an apartment building where a woman is somehow trapped in her apartment and screaming.

If you’re familiar with this movie, you know what happens. If you’re not, you can probably sort out where it’s headed. Think along the lines of maybe 28 Days Later meets the Dawn Of The Dead remake. There’s blood. There’s gunfire. There are jumpscares (effective ones at that). Also, that played out shot of someone getting dragged backwards into the dark? This was one of the earliest uses, back when it was actually cool.


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[REC]2

This picks up right where [REC] left off. There’s much more focus on the room where the first movie ended, and there’s now a demonic element introduced that’s hinted at but not fully developed in the initial go-round. Several characters appear in the sequel including Ángela. A number of these are mainly infected versions of themselves from before.

A handful of new characters show up as well: a doctor from the Ministry Of Health and a four-man tactical police squad. Other than that, the movie is essentially a continuation, but it’s also where we start to get just the slightest inkling that, in terms of the series story arc, the wheels are about to come off.


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[REC]3: Genesis

Slightly before and probably, in part, while the events of the first two movies occur, the events of [REC]3 also take place. First, we’ve switched to a new location, a wedding. We’ve also more or less ditched the Found Footage idea. That, to me, isn’t really that big a deal. So, one of the wedding guests is a veterinarian who, wouldn’t ya know it, was bitten some time earlier by a dog at his practice. It’s never made completely clear, but the implication that this is the same sick dog mentioned back in the first movie who may have infected the little girl he belonged to.

From there, the reasonably expected zombie chaos ensues. It’s worth noting that this is the movie where the directing team of [REC] and [REC]2, Jaume Balagueró and Paco Plaza split up. This is Plaza’s movie. It’s okay. It has a blood-spattered bride. She has a chainsaw. What’s not to like?


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[REC]4: Apocalypse

Obviously I’ll wrap up the post with the wrap up of the series. There will therefore be spoilers for this movie and the first one. This time it’s Balagueró at the solo helm and is also where all hell breaks loose in terms of anyone having any control over the plot. First, we head back to the apartment from the first two installments.

Now we’ve got a Special Forces team stormin’ in to rescue Ángela (warned ya), and destroy the building. I’ll give ’em this–the Spanish military response to this situation is way better than what happens in any George Romero movie where the higher-ups are often depicted as out of touch and inept.

Ángela and some other survivors (including WTF? someone from the wedding in [REC]3) end up on a ship which is under quarantine at sea. This time a test monkey gets loose and starts the festivities. More expectable zombie chaos as well as a new development–this is being caused by a parasite. Might be a demonic parasite. Might not. Either way, the whole shootin’ match concludes with another one of those great “it’s all gonna start all over again” endings like we had 5 years earlier in The Thaw.


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And there’s the [REC] series my fiends. Makes for a fine marathon if you’re gonna be trapped inside for a couple days.

Horror 365, Movie 191: Matango

If you only associate Ishirō Honda with rubber suit Godzilla movies, you’re missing out on A) some other really entertaining kaiju movies like the mournful War Of The Gargantuas, and B) some equally entertaining non-kaiju movies like Matango (released in the U.S. as Attack Of The Mushroom People).

I first saw this as a wee lad in Pittsburgh one rainy Saturday afternoon on something called Science Fiction Theater. No, not the TV series from the 50s. This was a local afternoon movie show that had a really creep opening. I still remember the intro music, and even thinking about it now weirds me out a little. I’ve tried to find footage of this as well as Scorpio from Thing Theater, but to no avail.

Anyway. The movie itself is loosely, and I do mean loosely, based on the William Hope Hodgson story “A Voice In The Night.” Strange fungi that have various degrees of effect on the surrounding flora and fauna (including people) is a frequently recurring theme for Hodgson, and Matango is in fact the second adaptation of the story. The first was for the TV series Suspicion and is said to be truer to the source material.

But that doesn’t take anything away from Matango which is a groovy standalone flick. It’s told pretty much as an extended flashback by a doctor named Kenji Murai. It’s basically the story of a day trip gone awry. Y’know, like Gilligan’s Island but with radiation-spawned killer mushroom people.

Like I said, this is a really loose adaptation. Like, as in the source material, there’s a boat. There’s a mist. There’s a pervasive fungus (which in the story is not specifically mushrooms) that covers and deforms everything that comes in contact with it. Come to think of it, “The Lonesome Death Of Jordy Verrill” is kind of a cross between this and The Blob.

But I digress.

Anyway, beyond that, Matango heads off quickly in its own direction. As is so often the case, the specter of radiation looms large. It’s worth noting that, according to Wikepedia at least, Matango was very nearly banned in Japan, the country of its very origin. Supposedly the makeup effects too closely resembled the radiation effects suffered by survivors of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings.

In any case, there’s a link deduced between nuclear testing and polluted water on the island, the combination of which results in nightmarish mutations at every turn. Still, not to worry. Stay away from anything that looks weird and ration the food until help arrives, yes? Well, yeah. Unless one of your party gets paranoid and starts raiding your supplies.

As one does.

Naturally they have no choice but to start chowing down on the mushrooms despite a warning from one of the group members, a writer named Yoshida, that the mushrooms might be poisonous. I dunno about y’all, but I don’t fuck around with mushrooms. If they aren’t from the supermarket, I don’t even wanna touch ’em.

You don’t have to do much readin’ up to find out how many painful, grim, and frankly disgusting (not to mention sometimes fatal) effects one can suffer from a single bad shroom. Supposedly there’s one that’s so toxic it’ll kill you just by touching it to the tip of your tongue. I’d rather starve to death.

Not so with our intrepid holidaymakers. One by one they start to dive right in or get abducted and are fed some treacherous toadstools. The good news, such as it is, is that they are definitely not poisonous. The bad news is that they are instantly addictive and immediately start taking over your mind and body. You don’t even get any good hallucinations for your trouble. The upshot is that most of the folks on the yacht get turned into mushroom people.

The big reveal comes at the end when (spoilers) Murai turns toward the camera to reveal that he too has fungal growths which may or may not imply one of those end-of-the-world endings like “The Lonesome Death Of Jordy Verrill,” The Ruins, or even the god-awful Life.

And with that, we conclude with this shiitake for today. I’m gonna head out for beer and pizza. Pepperoni, thanks.


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BODIES- only 2 (everyone else becomes a mushroom person)
Stream- Flix Fling, Prime, Tubi
Rent- Flix Fling

Horror 365, Movie(s) 190: Top 10 Found Footage Failures

I’ve briefly mentioned Found Footage before, specifically found footage flicks that either flew under the radar, didn’t get much love, or deserved to be completely ignored. I thought today I’d focus on a few in that final category, so here’s my list of Top 10 Found Footage Failures.

#10 Man Vs.

To be fair, this is the least offensive and most enjoyable of the movies on this list. That doesn’t mean it was good. Obviously it banks heavily on Bear Grylls, but adds aliens into the mix as if the subgenre isn’t already chock fulla alien invasion footage.


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#9 Heidi

Ah killer dolls. In this case the cursed, homicidal doll is named Heidi. I’ll give the movie this much–I haven’t seen any found footage/murder doll movies. To my knowledge, this very well may be the only one. It’s for sure the only one I’ve come across so far. It coulda been way more effective, but I give it props for at least being pretty weird and having a decently freaky ending.


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#8 She Walks The Woods

Give a group of people an RV. Put them in the woods. Have something stalk them. Make it vaguely supernatural. Rue Morgue called this “an open love letter to both the genre and the Blair Witch.” If someone I care about sent me a love letter of this caliber, we’d have to break up. It’s a tough call between #8 and #9 as to which should be where. Somehow I find this just a little bit worse, partly because of its supposed Blair Witch homage (cuz we all know how much I hated that one).


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#7 Hell House LLC III: Lake Of Fire

I love Hell House LLC and its sequel, Hell House LLC II: The Abbadon Hotel. But this third one was exponentially the worst of the three. How I wish they would have stopped after the first sequel. The bad CGI and an infuriatingly upbeat ending are dreadful enough, but those are the absolute least of this movie’s problems.


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#6 The Ouija Experiment

Oh goodie, a ouija board movie. Still, I’ll say this–before Unfriended and Host, this movie made use of the whole online video chat idea. Ultimately, however, that idea falls flat in terms of acting, story arc, and predictable scares.


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#5 The Quarry

Wow was this bad. One of the biggest, almost insurmountable downfalls of the subgenre is the answer to the question “Why are these people still recording???” Incidentally, one of the most clever solutions to this problem occurs in Jeruzalem. Anyway, three friends go camping. Bad shit happens. And despite happening onscreen, it happens boringly.


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#4 Blackwood Evil

Uuhhmmm…I don’t know quite what to say about this. It was, I presume, an attempt of some kind. Lotsa talking goes on. Lotsa screaming. Lotsa doors shutting by themselves (not lotsa practical effects beyond that really). Female lead is annoying and shrill. There’s a big hateable landowner dude in a dress shirt. People get killed. It’s on a tape that is delivered to a TV station. Etcetera.


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#3 Shallow Creek Cult

More camping–two brothers planning to disperse their grandfather’s ashes. Oh, there’s a cult. Just for shits & giggles, let’s make it a cannibalistic cult. Trust me. This is way less interesting than it sounds, shockingly so. Doesn’t help that the cultists look like zero-budget versions of the little hooded things from Phantasm.


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#2 The Investigation: A Haunting In Sherwood

Right. First off, the title is long which rarely bodes well. This was originally #1 and is arguably the worst found footage movie I remember seeing. Why is it #2? Well as you’ll soon discover, that word remember is vital. Tangerine was made with 3 iPhone 5S smartphones. To say I could take a couple phones and do better than this is not bragging. You could give a rabid mandrill a smartphone, and the video would be more compelling than this movie.


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And the #1 worst found footage movie I’ve ever seen (?) Dark Flower

I had to head over to The Googles to see what this movie was even about because I don’t remember a single god damn thing about it. Not. One. Reading the synopsis reminded me of zero. But I must have seen it because I gave it half a star on Letterboxd. It does involve another staple of found footage horror–paranormal investigators. Woo.

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There you have it. As ever, the Comments await your responses and especially your least favorite found footage horrors.