REC 4: APOCALYPSE

PrintE-mail Written by Jack Bottomley

DVD REVIEW: REC 4: APOCALYPSE / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: JAUME BALAGUERÓ / SCREENPLAY: JAUME BALAGUERÓ, MANU DÍEZ/ STARRING: MANUELA VELASCO, PACO MANZANEDO, ISMAEL FRITSCHI, HÉCTOR COLOMÉ/ RELEASE DATE: MARCH 2ND

In 2007 (or 2008 in our parts), a little Spanish found footage Horror called [Rec] ran frothy mouthed into cinemas… an unexpected franchise was born. At face value, directors Paco Plaza and Jaume Balagueró merely held cameras and shot zombie carnage in an apartment block. Mind you, Rec was far more than another throwaway first person experience, it was a white knuckle ride, with genuine tension, gore, and one of modern horror cinema’s most genuinely flummoxing and terrifying endings.

However, as ardent genre buffs know, a series is only as good as it’s ability to develop through (as opposed to be lessened by) sequels. So in 2010 came
[Rec] 2, which bravely took its first person epidemiologic frenzy into a wholly unexpected and demonic direction. This was a sequel truly worthy of the first film and made Plaza and Balagueró’s series a more original take on the zombie genre. Unfortunately, the franchise's good luck was not to last thanks to Paco Plaza’s should-of-been-excellent [Rec] 3: Genésis, which abandoned the integral story, the handheld presentation and the scares for a more gory comedy route - the results being muddled and ill-fitting. So here we are at Rec 4: Apocalypse and thankfully proceedings have improved again, even if the latter stages of this franchise remain severely lacking compared to the earlier films.

This film sees long suffering reporter Àngela (Velasco) rescued from the overrun apartment and wake up at sea aboard a freighter alongside some other people. Not knowing the motives of the medical crew in charge, all soon becomes clear, as the virus finds it’s way on-board, meaning the crew must band together to try and fend off the infected or, failing that, try and survive. Unlike Genésis (although fans of that film don’t despair, it is tied into this plot somewhat), Apocalypse goes for the brutal, dark, approach of the first films instead of the comic overtones. That being said, the handheld approach has been fully abandoned now, in this cinematically presented journey (though the odd moments of camera footage refer to the series roots). This is good and bad;good because it allows for the make-up work to stand out and for intense chase sequences to be more easily digested (pardon the pun), but bad because it means the title of the series is now irrelevant and the overall claustrophobic vibe largely lost.

Still, Apocalypse has some great moments and at least feels like it is determined to tie-up the overall narrative mythos, which has now become less a zombie film and more Jason Goes to Hell meets 28 Days Later. Which may make or break the film for some viewers. In fact, when speaking of influences, the biggest influence here is F.W. Murnau’s Nosferatu, with the whole fear of the foreigner angle and scenes of plague-like outbreak echoing Murnau’s infamous film and it’s boat-set sequences. Heck, one of the characters is even wearing a shirt as direct reference to this, for all you cinebuffs out there. Yet despite the film’s rather anti-climatic finale, which seems to work too hard to outdo what came before as opposed to neatly concluding, there is a lot to admire here. The film features some entertaining pandemic jolts of energy and (despite the odd iffy animated monkey) shows the series advancement in terms of presentation. For instance, the make-up is grossly great and the Blake Neely-esque score, by Arnau Bataller, effective (even if you do keep expecting Oliver Queen- from TV series Arrow to turn up at points!)

In short, Rec 4: Apocalypse is not as scary as the first and second films, nor as originally constructed, but it is more sure of itself than the muddled third movie, and while the handheld aspect would have actually improved the tone and scares, if this is to be the closing chapter in the franchise it at least goes out on a relatively fun and furiously bloody note. Still, we can’t help but think that years in the future, Genésis and Apocalypse will remain more like forgotten or vaguely recalled sequels to two foreign horror landmarks rather than meaty and memorable follow-ups in their own right.

Special Features: Making of Rec 4
 

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