Sunday, 13 January 2013
Killed by Death... Of a Franchise
[Rec] was a great movie. I loved it. I think you've seen it. I forget. If you haven't, go and see it. The movie's great. Paco Plaza and Jaume Balagueró. It's first person horror done well, and having seen it before Cloverfield, I did both a disservice. I actually like Cloverfield, despite the flaws. Cloverfield is a roller-coaster ride more than it is a horror movie. [Rec] delivers the best first person horror I've seen outside of Blair Witch, which I still think is good. Wow, first person horror admission hour.
Anyway, back on track, [Rec] was amazing, [Rec] 2 was still good, delivering two stories set after the first film and during it (in that order, weirdly). We got to see familiar faces and had more of the mythos expand in front of us, because this isn't simply a zombie movie, there's more to it.
[Rec] 2 was made to keep people aware that [Rec] was a property of Plaza & Balagueró, not the awful American adaptation, called Quarantine, which I'm surprised I've not written about here on KBG. Actually I'm not, I tried and it became a rant about how wonderful [Rec] was instead. The production company asked for two more movies, so the creators decided to set about one each for reasons which sound a lot like, "creative differences". [Rec] Genesis is a prequel by Paco Plaza, and [Rec] Apocalypse will be set after all the other films, by Balagueró. I can only assume by Genesis, that Apocalypse will be the good film. If you've not seen them, this is just my usual babble, but the second this film was over, I had to find out why. Why was it like this?
At the party, the vet, Koldo's uncle, throws up what's obviously blood, gives The Crazy-Eye and mounts a prop at the disco. He topples and falls through a table, then bites a woman who helps him, and stands around looking pretty damn pleased with himself. People panic and then leaping rage zombies jump into the crowd. I'm not sure where they came from, but they're here now, ripping everything apart. People are getting killed and eaten all over the place and in the chaos, both cameramen end up with the groom. The camera kid of course gives the now-traditional, "I have to film everything, people have to know the truth!" speech, only to have the camera taken away and stomped on.
No, not really, but they use that as a mechanic to deliver the opening title, as the 'record' light dies away. We switch instead to a clean, crisp filming style, following Koldo's group as they abandon the other cameraman when he's too fat to fit in the vent. They find out that one of the guests was a guy who goes to weddings and sees who's using copyrighted music to make sure that the music companies get royalties. Clara uses the intercom to show that she's still alive and now the plot's about the pair of them getting back to each other through a zombie-infested mansion. And these are zombies. They're not the… things, [Rec] 1 & 2 had. Those were more than just zombies, but aside from freaky evil angel reflections and the smirking vet zombie, they are basically standard zombies from any one of the billion zombie films out now. Clara's own group includes John Sponge and a short priest who keeps talking about this being the Genesis (not the book of the Bible I'd compare it to). He's abandoned by the others and by quoting scripture, he makes the zombies spasm and stay in place. Clara meets Rafa, who went off to shag a French girl and is unaware of what happened.
Koldo's team are decimated, with young camera guy separated, Royalties gets bitten by the cop and then alerting the horde (I said that out loud when the police siren went off, damn you Left 4 Dead). Koldo and a tubby guy get suits of armour to cross the horde in the disco, and tubby is instantly dragged off. In Clara's team, John Sponge is killed, the French woman has a heart-to-heart and is killed a second later, and Rafa tries to get on with Clara, only to die, too. She gets a chainsaw, cuts only half of her wedding dress off so that she looks like a Final Fantasy character, hacking through a few zombies with chainsaws, lopping off Rafa's head and bisecting one guy. It's short-lived as she sees Koldo (in his armour and sideburns looking like a weird Not-Colin-Firth) through a grate above her. The two share a way too long reunion at first either side of the grate, then right next to where zombies are clambering at them. I guess they're holding back for now because they wanted to see the reunion, too.
They're surrounded, about to die, despite having the cake-cutting sword of doom (oh yeah, there's a sword everyone keeps forgetting is there). Then the intercom goes on and it's the tiny priest reading the Bible. All the zombies start convulsing, allowing the bride and groom to leave. On their way out, the gates have been covered in plastic and the guys who boarded up [Rec]'s building are there. Technically, for a prequel, this must now be after the incident from the first two films, as an aside. The zombie extras are having to twitch about, even though the tiny priest has stopped. What's happened to him? We never know. Clara and Koldo are in the garden of the jittering dead when she's bitten in the hand. A relative had a bad hearing aid, so he never heard the religious chanting. Finally, the sword gets used to hack her hand off, but it's too late and the bad CGI shows the infection bubbling beneath her giant eyes. They don't realise this until the pair confront the big plastic sheet and the yelled warnings from "The Man" to not go near. The infection starts to show in Clara and the pair decide to walk through the unguarded tunnels, all the way to the outside. The authorities surround them, now the pair are out in the open, rather than the sealed manor, and let the pair kiss. Clara turns the moment they kiss and rips Koldo's face open. He's going to turn now, and the cops open fire on the couple. They die together, and that's it. The end.
Instead, these films remove any allegory, any human element, any meaning aside from, "zombie movies sell and I want to make one". The arcs mean nothing. The characters didn't have more than one note each. The first part, pre-invasion, could have been good, and both cameramen had a fun dynamic. The sad truth is that seeing their story could have been more interesting than these lovers separated by the dead. I feel that this is the equivalent of George Romero's "Diary of the Dead". In that instance, he was trying to tap into the first person zeitgeist and took all interesting traits from his previous films out. Paco Plaza has done the same by going from first to third person. Experimenting with style is fine, but acting like the pale imitations which flood the cheap film section of second-hand stores is a shameful move on both their parts.
I can only hope that [Rec] Apocalypse is better, as Paco Plaza won't be behind the camera.