Review: Rec4 Apocalypse

 

Television reporter Ángela is rescued from the building and taken to an oil tanker to be examined. However, it is unknown whether it is her who is carrying the seed of the mysterious demonic virus.

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Let me start off by saying I’m a big fan of both director, Jaume Balaguero, and the Rec series to date. Balaguero would be a genre director to watch even without the franchise under his belt, with Fragile, Darkness (watch the full European versions, not the butchered US/UK versions!) and the simply sublime Sleep Tight. With Rec 4 this series supposedly comes to a conclusion ( I know we’ve all heard that one before) after what many fans, but not myself, thought of as a disappointing third part. That was set not in the apartment block of the original two films, but at a wedding. The third one also effectively left behind the ‘found footage’ effect for a more standard filming style. My anticipation for this fourth movie was high, but ultimately I was a little disappointed.

The first two Rec movies set the bar high for any subsequent zombie movies, and on the evidence on display with number four, even Balaguero himself struggles to reach the claustrophobia, tension and simple scariness of its predecessors. The pitch here is simple. Rather than the original Rec, zombies in an apartment block comes zombies on a ship, with the patented ‘approaching storm’ heading straight for the ship. So, far, so good. The problem? It’s not that scary.

The choice of being trapped on a ship at sea, filled with Rec style zombies seems like a slam dunk, but a few things work against the movie, not least of which the ship itself. On paper a ship offers the same as an apartment block, lots of narrow corridors, dark spaces for things to jump out at characters, no way off. But the narrowness of the ship’s corridors leads to difficulties with the freedom to position the camera for much of the running time, also having bulk head doors with porthole windows allows you to see the zombies, but without them really being able to get to the protagonists the infected just aren’t that scary. Also, the films conscious attempts to resolve and tie up the threads from previous films do seem laboured at points.

This isn’t to say the film has no positives, the actors are all convincing, and the film is never boring, just a little preoccupied with wrapping up with the earlier movies and a feeling that the film in itself has nothing to say. It merely finishes the story. But the film does have one trick up its sleeves that can still scare and create a real threat. Monkeys. Rec zombie monkeys! The heroine’s flight through a cargo hold of zombies up monkeys is a stand out sequence, but ultimately it can’t save the film from being merely an ok addition to the series. A lost opportunity to a great series, but I certainly wouldn’t rule out Balaguero returning with another gem sometime soon.


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It was only last week that I remembered that I had never seen the original first two Rec films (don’t ask, I don’t know why). A very quick and hasty viewing took place before heading up to Glasgow for the screening of Rec 4. I’m very glad that I did this as while Rec 3: Genesis is a standalone film taking place in the same timeline, this film continues with and utilises the mythology and story-lines from the first two films (host/parasite etc). Although it does seem that the Christian ‘possession’ and church involvement scenario seems to of been quietly dropped. The film also assumes that you know the back story and offers no catch up, so it may be worth having a quick refresher if it’s been a while before cracking open the cellophane on the case.

Rec 4 essentially draws together surviving characters from 2 and 3 and drops them together on a research ship out at sea filled with armed soldiers and scientists looking for a antidote. After a relatively zombie free start to the film the inevitable outbreak occurs, and it changes pretty quickly into high gear and then never lets up. The ship location has all the small claustrophobic tight spaces and corridors you would expect, but because the film becomes so faced paced and the camera is always moving it never gets to feels that claustrophobic at any point.

It must also be noted that is not a found footage film (After the switch from found footage to a more standard film format in Genesis, they have continued using standard film-making techniques). This is probably just as well considering the tight confines of a ship. The budget on this is also noticeably higher than the previous films, and it shows in the incredible makeup and prosthetic used in the last two thirds of the film.

Jaume Balaguero director, writer and creator of the first two films is back at the helm writing and directing the (hopefully) final film. After directing the wonderfully uncomfortable Sleep Tight in 2011 he returns to his franchise that has spawned 3 films (2 written and directed by Jaume) and 2 remakes. This however is the first with his involvement that isn’t found footage and it makes a noticeable difference when you compare to Genesis. The film is tighter, better written and carries itself with a much better pace than the previous. Also missing from the third, Manuela Velasco returns as the protagonist Anglea, who it must be said while does a great job, is often overshadowed by the other actors, and was never a highlight for me in the original films either. A special mention must be made of Héctor Colomé, who’s cold and harsh performance as the antagonist Dr. Ricate was one of the stand out parts of the film.

It’s beautifully shot, well acted and has an OK storyline and while not as good as the original two films, Rec 4 isn’t a bad watch. Oh and it has zombie monkeys, gotta like a film with zombie primates.


MIKE2


 I do like the Rec films, even though I do struggle with motion sickness from the first 2, they are good zombie movies though changing the filming style in Rec 3 was something I approved off immensely. Rec 4 continues with this normal filming style and again I’m thankful for that.

Returning to ground zero and running after the events in Rec 3, it brings in our original heroine and a survivor from the wedding massacre. Tying all three films together nicely, while 3 went into all out action zombie territory, Rec 4 is intent on providing a full explanation to the cause of the virus, shying away from the religious overtones from the first 2 films. It does play quite nicely though, but seems like they picked the obvious and safest choice, I do wonder if they did work through a religious treatment as well, might have been an interesting option. Then again it has zombie monkeys, which I’m not sure about really, I guess they weren’t too bad!

Manuela Velasco (Angela) returns and provides us with a kick ass heroine, alongside her the rest all gave solid performances, nothing special though. The script was pretty good, a few laughs, but only in situation rather than forced and it explains the virus pretty well. The make-up design was really good for the zombies, though we do have a constant stream of zombie movies now, their design should be on point. The setting is also interesting, and while it worked for the most part I felt it also hindered the attacks and the actual fight sequences, with really tight in camera work and fast cuts in all the fight scenes it was a little too close for comfort and I really couldn’t appreciate it. But the tight confines of the location really didn’t give the director much choice. That’s not to say that all the action sequences are a write-off, there are a couple of decent ones in the film.

Director Jaume Balaguero returns to the series after directing the first 2, and I do hope he and the series end it here. There is nothing wrong with his direction and he does bring the scares and knows this genre well. As much as I like the series, I do feel it has run its course yet Balaguero has shown an adept eye for a more subtle and disturbing style of film making, just take a look at Sleep Tight (which I really do recommend).

While I didn’t really dislike this fourth installment, I never really got on-board with it either, location was my main issue and the choice of cause was a little weak. It’s not a bad 90 minutes zombie entertainment and if you really like the other Rec films I think you will still enjoy this final outing. That said is it really the end of the series……


Final-Score


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