Tuesday, September 4, 2012

3's the charm: Paco Plaza's new [REC] is the best yet--fast, funny, gory & delightful

Brilliant! The concept of using a wedding as the setting for the latest in the [REC] series of DIY zombie films is simply sensational. Beginning with one of those now de rigueur DVD scrapbooks detailing the early history of the bride and groom as children, the new [REC] 3, from its first frames offers irony and humor aplenty and, as most [REC] viewers will know what is coming, simply makes especially delightful all the blood, gore and more. Movie-makers: If you're going to splatter us, this is the way to do it.

Spanish filmmaker Paco Plaza (shown at right) -- the screenwriter of the first two [REC]s and the writer/
director of this one, as well as of The Christmas Tale, one of the best in the Spanish Films to Keep You Awake series -- does himself and his series proud with this new and difficult-to-better, diamond in the (very) rough. Señor Plaza under-stands the structure and the strictures of the horror genre (sub-genre: zombie) better probably better than anyone else, including George Romero. As director, he also possesses the right, light touch that makes his movies succeed on multiples levels: the scary, the comic, the ironic and, yes, even the humane. In addition, this one actually works as a great big cheeseball goof on the entire genre.

[REC] 3 begins sweetly, in fine wedding form, introducing us to the bride and groom, their important friends and relatives, and of course to the cameramen -- one professional, the other amateur -- who will capture the celebration. (This has always been [REC]'s ace-in-the-hole: having a videographer on hand, who just happens to record it all.) So for awhile we get the whole hand-held camera business, with Plaza thankfully making it more fun than usual.

Then somewhere along the way -- perhaps off and on: the movie grows so exciting so quickly that I can't be sure exactly when -- the director smartly stops bothering with the usual "We have to record all this" silliness and just goes on making his movie. I think he felt pretty certain we'd be hooked by now. Truthfuly, I would much rather have a well-made movie to watch than one that supposedly adheres, à la Blair Witch, to "reality" by only showing what it was possible for the digital-camera-person to capture. (And then, as in Blair Witch, fudges on even that.)

Once the carnage begins, it comes fast and furious, with shocks, surprises, hairbreadth escapes -- and an especially terrific use of sound effects -- all combining to rivet us to our seats. This last of these proves particularly canny because sound and hearing are used as a plot function better here than in almost any scary movie I recall -- except maybe Pontypool.  (The Bible, too, god bless it, is finally used in a film as something that is truly functional for once.)

As also befits any decent zombie movie, there are rules that must be followed -- though in this case, those rules have changed. Discovering the new ones and what they portend is part of the great fun of the film. The cast -- as is true with most zombie movies these days -- is required to do little more than serve as the eventual meal. Despite this, our hero and heroine -- the bride (Clara, played by Leticia Dolera, above, left), and groom (Koldo, played by Diego Martín, above, right), get to run the gamut of emotions from love and desire to fear, terror, sacrifice, forgiveness and beyond. These two are more than up to the task, and their finale is, well, one for the books.

The filmmaker also, in the midst of this gross-out blood bath, manages to instill something humane into the proceedings. (This is what any good zombie movie -- from the various Body Snatchers films to Night of the Living Dead -- is all about anyway: Hanging on to but a thread of our humanity.) Is it possible to have us wipe away a tear at the very moment we are giggling? Damned if Mr. Plaza doesn't achieve something of the sort. So if you only plan to see only a single zombie movie this year (hell, this decade), look no farther.

[REC] 3: Genesis (the subtitle is meaningless: It's not the beginning, and it certainly won't be the end), from Magnolia Pictures and running a swift 79 minutes, opens this Friday, September 7, in New York City at the Cinema Village, and seven other cities, before hitting another dozen in the weeks to come. Click here to see all currently scheduled playdates, with cities and theaters listed. Meanwhile, it's also playing nationwide on VOD.

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