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Blu-ray Review: The [REC] Collection

“Film everything.”

 

Distributor: Shout! Factory

In 2007, two talented Spanish filmmakers created a terrifying film that went on to spawn three sequels, an American remake and its sequel. In the first film, [REC], a TV reporter and her crew are asked to cover a crew of firemen on duty. What seems like a routine story about a night at the fire station soon turns into a nightmare. Trapped inside a quarantined building, the crew must try to survive the terror that rages inside.

[REC] 2 picks up minutes after the end of [REC]. The authorities have lost contact with the people trapped inside the quarantined building and chaos reigns. A Special Operations Unit has been tasked with entering the premises … only to discover that this is anything but a straightforward mission.

[REC] 3: GENESIS leaves the confines of the quarantined building to follow the wedding of Koldo and Clara. Everything appears to be running smoothly and the bride and groom are enjoying a wonderful day … until some of the guests start showing signs of a strange illness and unleash a torrent of violence.

[REC] 4: APOCALYPSE returns focus to Ángela Vidal, the young reporter who has managed to make it out of the building alive. But she hasn’t made it out of the building alone as she carries the seed of the strange infection. She is taken to a provisional quarantine facility: the perfect location for the virus to be reborn.

What a weird road the [REC] series has traveled. After the successful release of the first film, which can be fairly described as a modern classic, its directors Jaume Balagueró and Paco Plaza were smart enough to realize that to make a successful sequel, it was essential to revisit all the things that made its predecessor so effective: the claustrophobic surroundings of that Barcelona apartment building, the cast of quirky characters slowly transforming into hideous mutants, the emaciated hammer-swinging thing residing in the attic, and most importantly, the inclusion of the found-footage aesthetic. [REC]2, a clever sidequel, posits: say, what else could be going on in that apartment building? And while on paper that sounds like a total cop-out, it worked just fine. Going beyond its ability to strike gold twice utilizing an identical concept, it took things one step further by introducing a rather interesting idea: what if this “disease” being passed from person to person via bite and turning everyone afflicted into bleeding, shrieking, gooey ghouls was, in actuality, demon possession? What if one by one these people were being turned into demonic drones? With this idea in motion, the ghouls of [REC] didn’t have to just scream and hurtle themselves at their prey. Now they could sprout wings, or crawl upside down on the ceiling. Now there was the simmering suggestion that it would not be a scientist who could potentially find a cure, but a priest. Now we suddenly had The Exorcist in the back of our minds, and that ain’t a shabby association.

While some factions of the audiences didn’t fully embrace this new demonic twist, [REC]2 was wildly popular, and so it wasn’t long before not one but two more sequels were announced: [REC]3: Genesis, and [REC]4: Apocalypse. However, in a surprising move, the co-directors also announced that each of them would be tackling one of the sequels solo, and even more surprising, abandoning the found footage aesthetic that had helped to make the series so far stand out from its flesh-ripping cinematic colleagues. And so, with two solid films already winning over most horror fans, audiences waited to see just what kind of new ideas its creators would bring to the table.

They got their answer: stupid.

Paco Plaza took the first swing with [REC]3, a film severely hampered by its overly aggressive but laudable attempts to avoid treading derivative ground. While a worthy endeavor, the dropping of the found footage technique, the insertion of constant and too-silly humor, and setting the film prior to the events of the first all led to an entry that was uneven, inconsistent, and lacking in any thrills.

With the long-confirmed fourth and final entry in the [REC] series looming on the horizon, this one under the guidance of a solo Balagueró, audiences once again waited to see if the franchise would go out with a bang instead of a whimper.

It hasn’t.


That law of diminishing returns refuses to ever cut audiences a break, and so [REC]4 unseats [REC]3 from its very brief record of being the weakest of the series. In what amounts to an even stupider film than Friday the 13th: Jason Takes Manhattan, [REC]4 has our characters running loose on a barge as one by one its collection of military soldiers and doctors fall victim to the very “disease” they have been trying to cure. Manuela Velasco, Spain’s own beautiful doppelganger for Marisa Tomei, reprises her role from the first two films as the battered and bloodied Ángela Vidal, who following her nightmarish experience in that demon-infested apartment building has been whisked away to this same barge, filled with the aforementioned military personnel. While [REC]4 is in some ways an improvement over its predecessor, thankfully jettisoning all the cheap cartoon humor and contributing an entry that actually feels like it belongs to the [REC] series, unfortunately it gets nearly everything else wrong. The attempt at series continuity by utilizing Velasco is certainly appreciated, but her character is utterly misused, setting her up as a red herring for much of the film’s running time until the third-act twist that, to be fair, is a genuine surprise, but to be fairer, is surprising because of how shamelessly cheap it is. The twist “works” not because the film was successful in subtly setting it up, but rather because it was unmercifully lazy – the kind of “gotcha” moment played out in that theoretically non-existent wasteland of Offscreen Land where Balagueró insisted on hiding it like an Indiana Jones relic, because to have seen it play out on screen under the pretenses with which we were already provided would have made the twist obviously lazy.

[REC]4 is the fourth part of a once-solid series that lost its way halfway through. It wants to use CGI to ensure a dramatic ending, but it can’t afford it. It wants to have a big cast, but doesn’t know what to do with any of them, that is beyond having all of them running around in the dark yelling “Vamos!” at each other. It wants to expand on the previously established [REC] cannon, but then…it doesn’t. This proclaimed final entry in the series still not only manages to set up a [REC]5, but one that promises this series will still be swinging blindly in the dark.

THE SUPPLEMENTS:

The complete list of special features is as follows:

DISC ONE: [REC]

  • In Spanish With English Subtitles And English Dub
  • Audio Commentary With Writers/Directors Jaume Balagueró And Paco Plaza (In Spanish With English Subtitles)
  • The Making Of [REC] (40 Minutes)
  • Crew Interviews (46 Minutes)
  • Extended Scenes
  • Deleted Scenes
  • Behind The Scenes Footage (43 Minutes)
  • Teaser
  • Theatrical Trailers
  • TV Spots
  • Still Gallery

DISC TWO: [REC] 2

  • In Spanish With English Subtitles
  • Audio Commentary With Writers/Directors Jaume Balagueró And Paco Plaza (In Spanish With English Subtitles)
  • The Making of [REC] 2 – In An Affected World (118 Minutes)
  • Behind The Scenes
  • Deleted Scenes
  • Extended Scenes
  • Walkthrough Of The Set
  • [REC] 2 On Tour
  • Sitges Film Festival Press Conference
  • Theatrical Trailers
  • TV Spots
  • Still Gallery

DISC THREE: [REC] 3: GENESIS

  • In Spanish With English Subtitles
  • [REC] 3: Genesis – Preparing A Bloody Wedding (117 Minutes)
  • The Making Of [REC] 3
  • Deleted Scenes
  • Outtakes
  • Theatrical Trailers
  • TV Spots
  • Still Gallery

DISC FOUR: [REC] 4: APOCALYPSE

  • In Spanish With English Subtitles
  • The Making Of [REC] 4: APOCALYPSE
  • Theatrical Trailers
  • TV Spot
  • Still Gallery

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Written by

J. Tonzelli is a writer, film critiquer, and avid Arnold/Van Damme/Bronson enthusiast who resides in rural South Jersey. He is the author of "The End of Summer: Thirteen Tales of Halloween" and the "Fright Friends Adventure" series, co-authored with Chris Evangelista. He loves abandoned buildings, the supernatural, and films by John Carpenter. You can read some of his short fiction at his website, JTonzelli.com, or objectify him by staring at his tweets: @jtonzelli. He apologizes for all the profanity.

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