REC 3: GENESIS (2012)
If you were expecting the claustrophobic terror of the first two “REC” movies, then you’ll be sorely disappointed with Paco Plaza’s “REC 3: Genesis”, a decidedly campier (not to mention a whole lot roomier) affair than previous entries in the franchise. The third film also marks Plaza’s first solo effort after co-writing/co-directing/co-producing the first two movies with Jaume Balagueo. The film opens in Found Footage style, documenting the impending nuptials of Clara (Leticia Dolera) and Koldo (Diego Martín). The marriage goes off without a hitch, but things take a bloody turn later at the wedding reception, where an uncle claiming to have been bitten by a dog earlier in the day turns zombie and begins feasting on poor Clara and Koldo’s relatives. Talk about a memorable wedding! I guess they’ll be talking about this one for a while. Well, the one that survives, anyway.
Needless to say, it’s every cousin for himself, and in the ensuing chaos, Koldo and Clara become separated. Thankfully the two are soulmates, and thus can “sense” one another. No, really, they can do this. It’s one of the film’s more curious supernatural elements. Others include the zombies looking like demons when viewed in mirrors, or being unable to enter holy places. You figure it out, cause I haven’t a clue. More often than not, “REC 3: Genesis” looks and feels like a film in search of new direction, as if Plaza realized there wasn’t a whole lot of places to go after the first two movies, so this is his attempt at expanding the franchise into other areas. Fans of the series may find this a slap in the face, though I thought it was amusing enough. “REC 3” is definitely more “Evil Dead” than I had expected, with plenty of gore and zany moments, like Leticia Dolera’s Clara inexplicably picking up a chainsaw and mowing down zombies.
If you don’t take it too seriously, “REC 3: Genesis” is a pretty entertaining horror-comedy with some nice gags throughout. Clara’s chainsaw moment, Koldo stumbling across a suit of armor, and there’s a Spongebob Squarepants clone called Sponge John running around the wedding. Leticia Dolera’s Clara has the makings of a new Alice ala the “Resident Evil” movies, and probably makes the biggest impression in the movie. I’m not sure how or where the “REC” films can go from here, but it’ll certainly be interesting to find out after such a drastic shift in tone for the franchise. It’s too bad Plaza chose to end the film the way he did, because (without giving anything anyway), there are a couple of characters in the film that I’d love to see in future installments. Alas, that’s not going to happen.
SEVEN BELOW (2012)
Here’s a tip for all you weary travelers out there: if you get into a car accident in some backwoods county, and Ving Rhames conveniently shows up and tells you a storm is coming, so it’s best if you hightail it over to his creepy ass house in the countryside, you should probably turn him down. Unfortunately, the characters in Kevin Carraway’s ridiculously tedious, unGodly boring “Seven Below” fails to heed that warning, and so they end up dying one by one as the night wears on. Mind you, not that you’ll care about these dummies, which includes headliner Val Kilmer, who (spoiler!) is the first one to die. We presume this is because Kilmer had other obligations to some other bad B-movies. Either way, it’s a smart move on his part to bail from this sinking ship before the halfway mark.
“Seven Below” opens with the murder of an entire family many moons ago, then fast-forwards to the present, where we meet our small band of travelers. Two brothers, an estranged husband and wife team, a foreign doctor, and eventually, the girl at the local convenience store. After the aforementioned car accident, the travelers end up with Ving Rhames, who is so utterly creepy that one look at this guy and you’d never go anywhere near his pick-up truck. Rhames’ character keeps warning of a storm of such magnitude that it will shut down roads, but that storm, hilariously, takes forever to arrive. And when it does show up, we’re basically treated to some rain and lightning. Not exactly world-beating, road-closing storms here, folks. Mind you, not that it would have mattered, since “Seven Below” is such a dreadful horror title that the lackluster storm will be the least of your worries.
The only mystery here is why you decided to suffer through to the very end. I did, but that’s only so I can write a proper (mini) review. See what I go through for you people? I’ll make it easy for you: just don’t. “Seven Below” is not worth your time. It’s poorly directed, poorly written, poorly paced, and as scary as day old milk. The acting is mostly decent, so I guess it has that going for it. See? I can be positive, too. (Though Ving Rhames’ idea of playing “evil” is borderline community theater amateur hour, but I’m going to pass that off to him knowing he’s in a turkey and trying to make the most of it. Yeah, that’s the ticket.)
THE COLLAPSED (2011)
It’s the end of the world as we know it, and I feel strangely annoyed. I blame it on “The Collapsed”, the feature film debut of writer/director Justin McConnell. Or maybe I blame it on the film’s bombastic soundtrack, which covers the movie from end to end. There’s nary a scene in the whole thing that isn’t being drowned by the score. Honestly, I’ve never wanted to mute a movie as much as “The Collapsed”, a post-apocalyptic film about a family of four that escapes to the countryside when the shit hits the fan in their fair city. We don’t know what caused the collapsed of civilization, but we do see buildings burning (well, a couple of buildings, anyway) and there are dead people on the streets. (Okay, so we see one dead woman next to her car. Or maybe there were a couple more nearby, I forgot.) Not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, the family grabs the dead woman’s car and makes their getaway, but only ends up on foot when they’re pursued by gas mask-wearing dudes with AK-47s. And oh, these dudes in gas masks that are all over the movie’s DVD covers? They show up for a few seconds and you never see them again.
The father (John Fantasia) does what he can to keep the family moving toward their goal. There’s the mother, the daughter, and the son who looks way too old to be playing a son. Honestly, maybe the actor playing the son is of the right age for the role, but he looks way old, beard and all. In any case, the family gets bogged down in the woods, where strange, unseen things seem to be hunting them. Maybe. Or perhaps it’s all in their minds. I’ll do McConnell a big favor and not spoil his film’s Twist Ending in case you’re thinking of watching “The Collapsed”. The acting is decent throughout, but the film is plodding and uninteresting for long stretches, especially in the early parts where it’s just the family bickering as they make their escape. I’m not sure what the father did before the end of the world, but he sure bosses everyone around like he’s an ex-Drill Instructor or something.
“The Collapsed” is a “Twilight Zone” episode stretched out into a feature-length film, and it shows in the many sections where nothing happens, which is often. When things do happen, McConnell starts putting that score he probably paid good money for to good use and just annoys the crap out of me. Which is too bad, because the film looks good for what must have been a small budget, and with a better script (one with, you know, more stuff happening) this could have been a good thriller. As it stands, it takes great strength to get through the film’s plodding first hour just to reach the payoff — that twisty twist at the end. I’m not convince it was a trip worth taking, though it was certainly bloody enough, so there’s that.