Frightfest ’12: Nightbreed (The Cabal Cut), Hidden in the Woods, V/H/S, and [REC] 3: Genesis

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Matt Bettinelli-Olpin in VHS (2012) Movie Image

V/H/S (2012)

“V/H/S” has been one of the more talked about horror films of late, and one which has been enjoying rare mainstream success, going down well at a variety of festivals, mostly notably Sundance, and having been called ‘The Scariest Film Of The Year’ by Rolling Stone. The film is an anthology piece, bringing together a gang of the most promising talents in modern indie horror – Adam Wingard, Glenn McQuaid, Radio Silence, David Bruckner, Joe Swanberg and Ti West. With a framing device revolving around a group of dropouts being hired to steal a mysterious VHS tape from a seemingly empty house, the film packs in six ‘found footage’ style weird tales that range from demons and slashers to internet webcam terror.

VHS (2012) Movie Poster“V/H/S” really does live up to the hype, and manages to breathe new and freaky life into both the found footage and anthology genres. One of the great things about the film and the reason why it works so well is that in spite of the presence of a wraparound story, the different segments are entirely random and all seem to be striving for increasing anecdotal weirdness, in some cases not even building towards the usual expected twist endings. Though inevitably as a complete package the film is uneven in tone, it somehow all hangs together, and the excellent variety on offer keeps things interesting, with a fair number of unpredictable (if at times rather senseless) scares and surprises along the way. The film also benefits from a real punk rock, indie feel, making great use of a number of different film making techniques and technologies, and though some of the web stuff feels a little forced, the directors all succeed in the not inconsiderable task of making found footage horror seem fresh and vital again.

Leticia Dolera in REC 3 Genesis (2012) Movie Image

[REC] 3: GENESIS (2012)

The “[REC]” Spanish horror phenomenon continues with “[REC]3: Genesis”, helmed by Paco Plaza, who along with Jaume Balaguero co-directed the original back in 2007 and the first sequel in 2009. This time around, Plaza takes a somewhat different approach, adding humour to the usual mix of running and screaming zombie gore. The film also shifts away from the apartment block setting of the first two outings, this time taking place at the wedding of Clara (Leticia Dolera) and Koldo (Diego Martin) at a fancy mansion in Barcelona, where an outbreak ruins their big day and sends them and the guests scrambling for survival.

Rec 3: Genesis (2012) Movie Poster“[REC]3: Genesis” really does have a very different feel indeed to its predecessors, Plaza eschewing nerve rattling tension and going all-out in an attempt to work in splatter gags and inventive mayhem. The film also differs quite boldly in moving away from a strict adherence to the found footage style, the camera at times quite clearly not being held by members of the panicking cast. All of this works reasonably well, and Plaza’s decision to break with “[REC]” tradition is definitely a smart one, and the film wins several points for not simply attempting to recycle the same old shocks. Unfortunately, although occasionally creative and oddly romantic, the film never quite gels, mainly due to much of its humour failing to hit the mark. Most of the viscera-hurling gags, whether involving chainsaws, food blenders or suits of armour, have been seen before, and though there is a decent amount of blood and guts, the gore is generally of the low-impact CGI variety and without any memorable money shots.

This might be a bit harsh, as there’s still a reasonable amount to be enjoyed here, and “[REC]3: Genesis” ticks most of the right boxes as late night cult crowd fodder. However, given the talent and budget involved, it’s hard not to feel that Plaza could have done something a little more ambitious, or at least have delivered the comedy splatter with a touch more verve and imagination. Though the weakest entry in the franchise to date “[REC] 3” isn’t really a bad film, and hopes remain high for the forthcoming Jaume Balaguero directed “[REC]4: Apocalypse”.

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