Film Review: [REC] 3: Génesis

The second sequel&#8212;actually a prequel&#8212;to 2007 Spanish horror surprise<i> [REC]</i> (as in &#8220;record&#8221;) is something of a disappointment, but serious genre fans (which is to the say the non-subtitle-averse) and anyone who thrills to

Clare (Leticia Dolera, possessor of the biggest peepers since Eyes Without a Face star Edith Scob), and Koldo (Diego Martín) are enjoying the fairy-tale wedding of every little princess’ dreams, complete with historic church, lavishly catered reception in a medieval castle set in the middle of handsomely landscaped grounds, and busloads of family and dearly loved friends in attendance. Literally busloads—the catering hall is far enough from the church that the happy couple has rented a fleet of coaches to ferry them all from one location to the other. Even their videographer is top of the line—the guy's got a Steadicam rig. Their wedding tape is going to be epic!

And so it is, though not in the way they imagined. As always, the first sign of trouble is small: Jovial Uncle Victor (Emilio Mencheta), a veterinarian, seems a little under the weather and has a bloody bandage on one hand—it seems one of his canine patients got a little feisty and nipped him. Nothing to worry about, he says: It goes with the job. But it becomes clear that's not the case when Victor, now sweating and wild-eyed, takes a header off an indoor balcony during the reception: Broken glass, spattered food, horrified guests, dead uncle…poor Koldo and Clara! And then Victor gets up and starts biting people. Uh oh…cue the running and screaming.

With the bulk of the supporting cast zombified or perhaps possessed by demons ([REC] 3: Génesis doesn't delve as deeply into that possibility as [REC] 2 did, but they can be stopped in their bloody tracks, at least temporarily, by a praying priest), Clara and Kolda are separated and spend much of the next hour trying to find each other and avoid just about everyone else as their wedding finery becomes progressively gore-soaked and ragged.

Paco Plaza, who co-wrote and co-directed both [REC] (remade in the U.S. as Quarantine in 2008) and [REC] 2 with Jaume Balagueró, takes the reins alone here, and the result is briskly efficient and handsomely photographed (by the serendipitously named Pablo Rosso, who also worked on the previous two installments). But it lacks the element of surprise that helped make [REC] and, more remarkably, [REC] 2 so sublimely creepy. Of course, neither had any kind of U.S. release beyond a couple of horror festival showings, so [REC] 3—which works as a standalone story—might play just fine to the mall multiplex crowd looking for some gory fun on a Saturday night, especially since it delivers plenty of gore, some smartly staged suspense sequences, and a pretty heroine feisty enough to grab a chainsaw, rip the skirt off her dream dress and go bridezilla on the monsters who crashed her party. And despite some repetitive time-wasting on the way, it comes to a Romeo-and-Juliet ending that's both genuinely haunting and gleefully gross. Let's hope Plaza can do as much in the fourth and supposedly last film in the series.