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