Seven years ago, Spanish filmmakers Paco Plaza and Jaume Balaguero brought horror fans the first REC film, which has since been embraced as one of the best found footage outputs in the genre. A straightforward sequel followed in 2009, and REC 3: Genesis came along in 2012, and though it dealt with the same virus, the overall film was largely removed from the series. But now the franchise has come full circle with the final installment REC 4: Apocalypse, co-written and directed by Balaguero, and it proves to be just as thrilling and gruesome as all the previous films.
REC 4 starts off with a group of special forces officers re-entering the apartment building from the first REC, setting charges to blow it up. They come across Angela Vidal, still alive, and quarantine her on a ship where doctors are working on a retrovirus to the demonic infection. But when one of the test subjects is let out, the infection quickly starts to spread throughout the ship.
Like its predecessor, REC 4 chooses to abandon the found footage style from both REC and REC 2. A more cinematic narrative works much better with the new setting and with the story presented. The audience is given several wide shots of the ship in the middle of the sea, reminding us that though it’s a bigger setting than the apartment building, it is still just as confined and isolated. Even with the tight physical constraints, the filmmakers are able to make use of several different locations on the ship to keep things somewhat interesting. The style of the film is very slick and clean, with quick cuts during the action sequences and beautifully framed and paced shots throughout. There are references to the franchise’s found footage roots with the use of the security cameras on the ship as a plot device, but they are only used sparingly.
Fans will be happy to see Manuela Velasco reprise her role as Angela. Though at the end of REC 2 she is revealed to have been possessed by the girl who originated the virus, an early medical test in this film shows that she is free of infection. This plot twist keeps the current story interesting and mysterious because it is still not fully understood how the virus works, and whether or not Angela is deceiving the doctors somehow. Important new characters to the story include Guzman, the officer who gets Angela out of the apartment building, and Ricarte, the doctor trying to find a cure for the virus. There is also an older woman whose grandson was Koldo from REC 3, which tells us that she was the only survivor from that massacre. Other minor characters are quite likable, such as computer whiz Nick, who claims to be a fan of Angela’s television show.
The infected are a bit stronger and more ferocious this time around. Besides the hideous growling noises the victims make, the mutated virus causes gross disfigurements to their faces. Sadly the audience doesn’t get to see much of these wonderful practical makeup effects because the attack scenes are often too quick and shaky. Still, horror fans won’t be disappointed by the gore that REC 4 has to offer. It’s not too over-the-top, but provides plenty of blood and inventive kills (two words: boat propeller) to keep gorehounds happy. It helps set off the fact that the pacing of the film a bit slower at times. Also disappointing is the way the conclusion employs a way overused trope of similar action flicks to speed up the climax.
Though overall not exactly a mind-blowing film, REC 4 serves as an excellent concluding chapter in a series that already boasts three awesome movies. The story that began in the first REC is brought to a satisfying conclusion that answers any lingering questions, and gives the fans what they want in terms of gore and action.
WICKED RATING: 7/10 [usr 7]
Title: Rec 4: Apocalypse
Director(s): Jaume Balaguero
Writer(s): Jaume Balaguero, Manu Diez
Stars: Manuela Velasco, Paco Manzenado
Release Date: January 2, 2015
Studio/ Production Co: Somnium Films, Filmax
Length: 96 Minutes