REC: Apocalypse (Cert 18)
1 Disc (Distributor: Entertainment One) Running Time: 95 minutes approx.
When REC appeared in 2007 it gave two tired horror genres a huge kick up the backside, namely the zombie flick and the found footage concept. The sequel two years later took it to the extreme adding a controversial religious twist to the story. Unfortunately the disappointing REC: Genesis deviated from the found footage format of the first two films with half being a straight up horror film. Therefore REC: Apocalypse has a lot of making up to do.
The story is direct continuation from the end of REC 2 yet adopts the straight scripted narrative of Genesis completely eschewing the found footage gimmick. The original protagonist from the first two films, reporter Angela Vidal (Manuela Velasco) has been rescued from the contaminated apartment block by army doctor Guzman (Paco Manzanedo) and soldier Lucas (Críspulo Cabeza) and taken onboard a ship acting as a temporary quarantine.
Unbeknownst to everyone a Dr. Ricarte (Hector Colome) has established a secret chamber in the lower decks of the ship to contain the virus while developing a retroviral. Unfortunately the test host, a monkey, escapes from the chamber and soon the virus is no longer isolated after it attacks the ship’s cook (Cristian Aquino) who runs wild. Meanwhile resident computer expert Nick (Ismael Fritschi) retrieves the footage from Angela’s camera, finding the clip of the virus being transferred into her by the original host.
Writer/director Jaume Balagueró has stuck to what he knows with this film transferring Angela back into the same situation she had just left but within the confines of a ship in the middle of the ocean instead of an apartment block. To that end, while this is something of a retread the change of location allows for a fresh, if less creepy take on it with a different and bespoke set of circumstances and solutions to the problems at hand.
Among the other passengers onboard the ship is a confused old lady (Maria Alfonso Rosso) who slept through the wedding massacre of the third film (the only reference to it) who Lucas takes under his protective wing but her fragile condition makes her difficult to keep tabs on. You can probably guess what happens to her once the virus takes hold but she is not alone. For Angela she has a double threat to contend with as Ricarte wants to open her up and remove the parasite, this delicate issue creating a division in the ranks and the number of potential protectors diminishing.
Once the infection begins to spread the action comes thick and fast with the ghoulish zombies cropping up when we least expect them, and suffering grisly, 18 rated deaths for their troubles, but not before they get to feast on some tasty human flesh. Horror fans may have been conditioned to the jump scare phenomenon meaning some are expected so Balagueró has others ways to get us cringing and covering our eyes.
The sea setting makes escape and the possibility of a timely rescue a non-proposition, heightening the terror and the plight of our protagonists. The stormy weather which appears in time for the tense climax is a little on the clichéd side but it gives us an impressively shot underwater sequence. In fact, if this one of the strengths of the film that the production are very high, with Balagueró going all out now he is free of the constraints and limitations the infrared POV camera work brought with it.
Resuming her role after a five year break Manuela Velasco has unfortunately aged a tiny bit in the interim – although what she had endured would age anybody – making the continuity a little less credible, But Velasco has lost none of her verve for the role and puts the previous nervous energy into fighting off flesh eating ghouls and duplicitous military doctors.
If there is an inherent problem with some movie franchises it is that the longer they run for the more diluted the name and central premise becomes. REC is not the first and won’t be the last to suffer from this but it is shame that something so promising is in danger of becoming a parody of itself. The main issue usually is that the films themselves aren’t intrinsically bad per se, rather they just don’t belong under the same umbrella as their parent films.
So, while this would have been a perfectly acceptable zombie horror at sea film in its own right, it is hampered by being presented as a REC film, even if the connection is perfectly valid and logical. Indeed, having the original leading lady return and by keeping the initial thread alive via the footage from the camera strengthens that connection, if only the direction hadn’t shifted to a scripted narrative as opposed to the first person perspective.
Then again one could argue that Balagueró, who co-wrote all four scripts, has painted himself into a corner by continuing a story which had such unique beginnings, since the found footage formula has a fairly limited cachet for an ongoing series. In other words, he is damned if does, damned if he doesn’t.
Ultimately REC: Apocalypse, much like its much weaker predecessor Genesis, finds itself in a difficult place where it has a name and legacy to live up to while it needs to do something to not be a simple rehash of old ideas. As such, it both works and fails in equal measures, suffering from being a victim of the franchise’s success. It works as a mildly distracting standalone zombie horror film but as a REC film, the conceit of which is the raw camera footage concept, it is unlikely to meet fan’s expectations and certainly doesn’t satisfy as a conclusion to the REC story.
But the open ending suggests another film may be forthcoming, which, unless Balagueró, can come up with something to restore and replicate the magic of the first two films, this might be an idea worth reconsidering.
Spanish 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
Spanish 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio
Making of REC: Apocalypse
Rating – ***
Man In Black