When a horror franchise is created it is usually founded on formula. For example, Paranormal Activity, Saw, and Final Destination all spawned sequels that follow the same formula as the first entry. Add new characters and new set pieces while keeping nearly identical plot progression. What makes the REC movies stand apart in this yearly tentpole release franchise machine is that each movie branches out from its predecessor in distinct ways. REC was, in essence, a zombie film. REC 2 begins as a zombie film but veers off into a different, and unpredictable, world. And now there is REC 3 Genesis, perhaps the largest leap from the previous entries in the REC franchise.
REC 3 Genesis opens as another found footage film. This time we see the action through the camera work of several attendees at the wedding of Clara(Leticia Dolera) and Koldo(Diego Martin). Through several first person conversations we meet the family and friends of the soon to be married couple, including a particularly lovable uncle who had the misfortune of being bit by a wild dog before he arrived at the wedding. After these introductions REC 3 Genesis takes two giant detours from the other REC films. They turn away from found footage and towards comedy. Yes, REC 3 is a comedy and it’s a damn funny one. While watching wedding party guests garnish an arsenal of found weaponry, one can’t help but think of Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead 2 and Peter Jackson’s Dead Alive. Directing without his REC compatriot Jaume Balaguero this time around, Writer and Director Paco Plaza apparently decided that, after the darkness of the first two REC films, we were all well due to have a little fun.
Perhaps the biggest example is the moment that this film abandons the found footage model. In the heat of a moment, Koldo asks the first person camera person, “are you filming?” which results in an argument that ultimately leads to the found footage camera to be destroyed. In this particularly meta moment, Plaza acknowledges and concedes to every found footage audience member who has ever screamed “put the camera down and run!” at the screen. REC 3 Genesis is full of moments like this. These meta inside jokes, saddled along with a healthy dose of cartoonish gore, makes this film something fans could never expect: a fun gore ride.
Another unexpected element of this film is how little it relates to the other films in the franchise. There is a reference or two to the other films, including the requisite reverence to the canon set before. Beyond that, though, there is precious little to tie this film to the others. There are no common characters and no common motivations. There is no real progression towards any larger plot. This movie is more of a parallel story that takes place in the same universe, a bloody jaunt to a different locale as the world begins to fall apart. This disassociation is what makes this film, and the REC franchise in general, so special. Unlike so many other horror franchises, creators Plaza and Jaume Baleguero are not afraid to break the mold that has been set by the preceding movie.
Granted, that creative bravery found in REC 3 Genesis, the bravery to willfully abandon the franchise formula, could leave some fans disappointed. Those fans, though, will truly be missing out on a pretty fantastic film. While it may not fit in entirely with the over-arcing story of REC, REC 2, and the already announced REC 4, REC 3 Genesis is a nice addition to the series and manages to allow audiences to have some fun with this world. And really, if you can’t get behind a woman in a wedding dress wielding a chainsaw you probably need to reevaluate some things.