August 30, 2014
Jaume Balaguero and Manu Diez
Manuela Valesco as Angela Vidal
Paco Manzanedo as Guzman
Hector Colome as Dr. Ricarte
Ismael Fritschi as Nic
Crispulo Cabezas as Lucas
Maria Alfonsa Rosso as Old Lady
The [REC] franchise has been an interesting and largely high quality zombie-like romp of infected humans running around chewing the unsuspecting survivors to shreds. The first film took the horror community by storm, generating so much stir that an English-language counterpart, Quarantine, almost immediately appeared. Interestingly, the remake is just about as good as the original Spanish language version. [REC] 2 continues immediately after the conclusion of the first one, like Halloween 2 does with Jamie Lee (in the horrible wig) in the hospital trying to recover from her harrowing experience. Interestingly the English language Quarantine 2 took a completely different direction, having an outbreak come along on an airplane. In both cases, English and Spanish, this was a found footage feature with the original [REC] being an early entry to this now over-used genre.
Then came [REC] 3, and the found footage element pretty much went out the window and the outbreak happens during a wedding. Finally, we have [REC] 4. In this feature we come full circle in a lot of respects. The virus outbreak has now reached global proportions, and a small crew of research scientists are on a ship at sea to work on an anti-virus. What they really need to make this work, though, is somebody from ground zero. Low and behold, some military guys go back to that original apartment building where the first outbreak took place and retrieve, surprise, Angela Vidal (Manuela Valasco), who was the reporter documenting the outbreak in the very first installment. The scientists believe that she holds the key to the antivirus, and they have infected some monkeys to be the test subjects to be cured. So… boat with scientists in the middle of the ocean, virus infected monkeys, what could go wrong? Whatever that is, that’s what happens.
[REC] 4 is a very good return to the roots of the franchise, mimicking the closed-in space where some civilians and public servants must fight to survive. The found footage, as mentioned, is gone now except for a couple of quick shots and some use of surveillance cameras and some found video from the first go around in that fateful apartment building. There are also some surprises to be found here regarding the ultimate source of the virus itself. And that extremely creepy skinny woman from the first one that was only seen via the night-vision of the camera, for those who remember Angela trying to be silent while this spooky creature walked around.
The acting performances are all exactly as good as they needed to be for this film to work. There weren’t Academy Award winning performances, but then there weren’t Academy Award winning moments either. No hot skinny blonde woman who gained 50 pounds to look like a trailer park serial killer. No hotbed issues surrounding race relations in America. This is a bunch of folks trying to survive violent and blood thirsty zombie-like infected humans. The biggest strength is the chemistry between the characters. Too many times great performers get together on a great production with a great story, but their chemistry together falls flat and the feature suffers for it. Take Prometheus for example – what a great overall film in terms of effects, story, scope… an epic really. The characters unfortunately just didn’t fit. Charlize Theron just didn’t fit in at all in the troup, and when the captain decided to sacrifice himself in the end it’s a great big ho hum. It wasn’t a failing of any individual performer; it’s a chemistry issue. None of those problems happen here in [REC] 4.
One of the thankful elements of this film is that it’s generally well lit. The first two installments were both inside and/or at night, and the shots were very dark. Adds to the creepiness, sure, but sometimes a bit difficult to know exactly what’s going on. Very much of [REC] 4 is in broad daylight or in brightly lit lab rooms, and that’s a good thing. The sets are very good, with much of the action seemingly happening on an actual ship. This is assumedly a film with a less than stellar budget, but when it’s difficult to tell the difference between a sound stage and a location shot the feeling is one of realism and impact. The effects are excellent as well, especially those freaky little monkeys. The monkey getting fried in a pan by the Korean cook is especially nice. Let’s just hope that that monkey meat doesn’t make it into the main course… oops!
The [REC] series should be over now, with [REC] 4 representing the end of the line for this particular franchise. But wait… will there be something at the end that leaves the door open? We’ll let you see that for yourself, and hope for whichever outcome you prefer. In any case this film is a must see for fans of the franchise, and those who would like to see the story tied up and brought full circle.