Why genesis? The word implies a beginning, but this third [Rec] film is no origin story, though if a fourth entry wasn’t already in the works, [Rec] 3: Genesis could have easily represented the nail in the franchise’s coffin. Following the throat-munching bloodbath that overwhelms the wedding of two happy love birds, Clara (Leticia Dolrea) and Koldo (Diego Martin), when an uncle arrives on the scene feeling a under the weather, having presumably been bitten by the diseased pooch mentioned in passing by a little girl in [Rec], this “parallel sequel” plays like a cheeky fanboy’s perversion of all that made the first two films so singularly unnerving and tautly constructed. And that this is the first entry directed by Paco Plaza without Jaume Balagueró perhaps proves who the brains of this operation was from the start.
[Rec] and part of [Rec] 2 assume the faux-verité gaze of professional cameramen, placed conveniently inside an apartment building as a zombieistic virus grips the building’s tenants. Neither film broke any sort of mold in their use of first-person point of view, but the horror documented by the absurdly ever-recording cameras was chilling in its sustained immediacy. [Rec] 3, shot from the POV of a wedding videographer who, in a shrill but convincing enough testament to his deeply ingrained sense of failure as a filmmaker, name drops Dziga Vertov and repeatedly advocates the use of “cinéma vérité,” has more reason than its predecessors to keep the camera on. That it doesn’t, after Koldo questions Atún’s (Sr. B) need to film the zombie attack as they hole themselves up inside the reception hall’s kitchen, is ultimately less surprising than the comic inanity that subsumes all horror as the film’s dominant mood.
As guests run wildly through the wedding hall’s corridors and woodsy exteriors, but never inexplicably beyond the grounds and toward the presumably safe civilization beyond, the film jumps from scene to scene with the sort of reckless and confusing abandon that only the expected blackouts of a camera constantly being banged about and turned on and off might have justified. The film forgets to include the scene where Koldo, after leaving a church where the zombies are unable to enter, puts on protective armor before returning to the wedding hall, so it isn’t until he reveals his identity by taking off his helmet that [Rec] 3 no longer feels as if it’s picking up random transmission from a Monty Python sketch. Also unclear is how Koldo’s uncle infiltrates the kitchen in one late scene, or why the man in the sponge suit gets two different spiels about how he doesn’t have the permission to go by SpongeBob SquarePants.
A [Rec] film in the key of Zombieland wouldn’t be unwelcome if it were smart or funny, but this slick production is almost embarrassingly beholden to formula (from swords to hearing aids, there are almost a half dozen cringing instances of fulfilled foreshadowing sprinkled throughout). Beyond the mismanagement of tone, [Rec] 3 also aggressively foregrounds Clara and Koldo’s absurdly telepathic struggle to find one another and assure the future of their nuclear family, with her chainsaw-wielding chutzpah suggesting a misogynistic Quentin Tarantino lover’s wet dream. Worst of all, though, is how the intriguingly vague religious panic of the first two films has turned almost impatiently into a transparent and rather bald-faced admonishment of a nation that has become increasingly un-Catholic of late. [Rec] 3 is a film with a message: that praying will keep the zombie away. That isn’t horror, only joyous catnip for neo-fascists the world over.