(Due to me reviewing all three films, spoilers are contained ahead though I’ve tried to keep them to a minimal)
I first saw [rec] in what would be the ideal horror movie atmosphere: it was Halloween, the room was pitch dark and it was midnight with me and a few friends, most of us still slightly buzzed and reeling from the festivities earlier. In a world rife with zombie movies of every type and the sudden pop culture explosion that’s occurred in recent years, it was refreshing to see a movie that did zombies right. The film starts off simply enough with a camera man and a reporter in the Spain equivalent of Insomniacs. They’re assigned to follow a detail of night shift firemen out on patrol on what is thought to be a routine domestic violence/disturbance call which of course doesn’t go as planned.
The entire film is shown through the recordings of the cameraman and the camcorder helmets the swat team uses. While this technique has been almost overused or done poorly ever since its emergence with the Blair Witch Project, here it is used to help create atmosphere and tension and actually gives the audience a valid reason for why a cameraman is still rolling film while hordes of vicious undead are attacking at every corner. When they wander in the darkened attic, it is only the cameraman with the use of his nightvision filter that can see what is going on and helps to direct the protagonists through the room. Bits here and there such as the dialogue and interaction between the different tenants of the apartment complex and the grandmother in the background of an interview scene who kept sweeping so she could show up in the film more were both funny and unintentional and bring a spot of levity to the film early on. This film is one of the few I have ever recalled actually managing to scare me and that I’ve been watching horror films since as young as 4 should to attest to how well crafted the atmosphere is. It’s exactly how a zombie apocalypse would go down in real life and despite our bravado, we will go down fairly easily.
The zombies (or infected, in this case) are fast, aggressive and will not go down when shot. Short of complete decapitation, and even that is up for debate if the comic tie-in is to be considered canon, they will continue to go after you mercilessly and tirelessly. The old woman and child who started it all are amongst the most frightening and even with a decapitation I’d doubt they would have stayed down for long. And while it may start off a tad slow with a very believable TV show beginning, it quickly ramps up the pace once the infected begin to show and stays at that pace until the breakneck ending when the creepy and disturbing Medeiros girl appears, skulking and sniffing about whilst swinging a hammer with her unnaturally long limbs.
The sequel, [rec] 2, occurs at the same time as the first film and depicts what happens to the S.W.A.T. team sent in to control the situation. They’re led by a specialist flow in from the CDC who in reality is a priest from the Vatican. It seems the plague is religious in nature. A demon had possessed the Medeiros girl and it is that which is causing the plague as that is how it manifests in our world. Rather than making the movie begin to seem ridiculous now that a whole exorcism spin is added to the film, it actually works rather well in its favor. It certainly explains why the zombies are so aggressive and impossible to stop and gives the victims a chance to defend themselves with the help of prayer and rosary beads to contain or ward off zombies momentarily. This also helps to add a creepy flair to the infected when they begin to speak in demon voices and add some of the other tricks of their trade to the already tense atmosphere. there’s also a side-story involving a trio of punk kids that sneak into the apartment complex by way of the sewers, but they serve only to distract halfway through the film even if they do serve as a plot-point later on.
And then there’s [rec] 3.
While initially utilizing the shaky camera characteristic of the first two films, it quickly discards this in favor of the typical 3rd person camera shots and shows what happened to the veterinarian that was bit by the girl’s dog from the first film who is in fact the catalyst for the first two films. The vet is attending the wedding of his nephew and begins to turn during the festivities of the wedding party. chaos quickly ensues and while not as terrifying as its predecessors, it certainly doesn’t take itself as seriously and ends up becoming a very enjoyable and tongue-in-cheek fest complete with knight in shining armor. The groom and bride are separated at the beginning of the film and much of the actions entails the two of them trying to reunite through the mansion filled with infected relatives. Uncle Raffa manages to evade much of the madness thanks to him being too busy sexing up a french girl in one of the adjoining rooms breaking the rule that if you’re caught having sex in a horror film you are sure to be killed off mid-coitus. They’re quickly joined by Sponge John (a non-copyright infringing knock-off hired to entertain the kids during the party) and the priest hired to perform the services. While they’re reunited at the end, they are quickly shot-down by the S.W.A.T. team that has arrived to quarantine the area after the bride is found to have been bitten during the last 10 minutes of the film. Complete with loving embrace, this film was surprisingly funny even though I initially had reservations about it when I saw the premise and how they had turned so completely away from the themes of the first film. And you know, it really worked in its favor. Otherwise it could have easily become almost a rehash of the first films and too often is this done with sequels and causes the franchise to become stale (I’m looking at you Saw and Paranormal Activities). That it went and did its own thing and successfully enough ended up making this film its own.
With that I’d strongly recommend at the least the first [rec] film if nothing else, but the sequels are enjoyable in their own right and well worth a view if you enjoyed the first one at all.