The fourth (and supposedly final) entry in the [REC] series finally arrives, providing a serviceable if uninspired conclusion to the story of Ángela Vidal and the demonic virus first released in 2007’s [REC].
The original [REC] was a frenetic and often terrifying found-footage film that – for me at least – epitomizes the best of the genre. [REC] 2 picked up right where the first film left off and, though bogged down in spots by breathless exposition, managed to keep the quality and intensity of the original all the way to a brilliant cliffhanger ending that left fans excited for the next installment.
Unfortunately, [REC] 3: Genesis was something of a misstep, forgoing a continuation of Ángela’s story as well as the use of the found footage conceit. Though, I actually enjoyed [REC] 3 on a second viewing (as a stand-alone zombie movie it has a certain tongue-in-cheek humor I like), I’ll admit to being extremely let down the first time I watched it, and I was worried that its relatively lukewarm reception would result in the proposed fourth film being cancelled. This turned out to be unwarranted concern on my part, and [REC] 4: Apocalypse was announced for release in October 2014 in Spain, with a limited US theatrical release in January of 2015 with a simultaneous VOD release.
[REC] 4 dispenses with the found-footage format and dives right back into the apartment building setting of the first two films, picking things up within minutes of the final events of the second film. A small group of soldiers moves quickly through the building, setting explosives. Things go about as well as in previous installments, which is to say not at all. The soldiers are attacked by infected denizens of the building (including Manu, from the first film). Shortly, there are only two soldiers left and only a few minutes in which to exit the building before the explosives go off. Which is when they hear Ángela’s cries for help. It’s a nice setup – a reminder of what we liked and what worked in the first two films. It also assures us that the loss of the found-footage format isn’t going to mean a reduction in the scares or gore. Ángela’s rescue by Guzmán – one of the soldiers – means the infection, the demon, is going to escape and we’ll get that apocalypse the title promises. Well… not exactly. The action then shifts to a boat somewhere on an unnamed ocean. Angela wakes up with no recollection of what has happened to her and finds herself a prisoner along with Guzmán, his partner Lucas, and an elderly lady who is apparently the only survivor of the events in the third film.
The boat is filled with soldiers and scientists – led by the dead-eyed Doctor Ricarte. They’re charged with containing the infection and finding a cure. On a rusting hulk with a dodgy electrical system. Yeah, that’s going to go well. At least they inform Ángela that she seems to be free of infection. In addition to the prisoners, soldiers and scientists there’s the boat captain, Ortega, and the radio/computer guy, Nick (who’s a big fan of Ángela). Nick is also trying to recover footage from Ángela’s camera, in order to find out what really happened in the apartment building.
There’s a lot of setup here, and a lot of suggestion and intimation of information. Is Ángela really free of infection? What are the scientists doing in that locked and key-coded lab in the hold? What will happen when Nick finishes reconstructing the film and everyone can see those final few moments of the tape, when Tristana Medieros regurgitates a disgusting parasite into Ángela’s mouth? All interesting questions, for sure, but there’s a lack of urgency to this part of the film and little buildup of tension. As a result the film feels very slow to get going.
The scientists are experimenting on monkeys in an effort to find a cure because demonically possessed monkeys are always a good idea. Soon, one of them is loose on the ship and infecting the cook and in a gleefully gross moment the food served to the soldiers. At this point the film gets back to its roots, with survivors fleeing along claustrophobic corridors and fighting bloody, gnashing victims of the demonic infection.
[REC] 4 has its moments. The ship is a great location, cramped and filled with dripping pipes, rusting walls, and all kinds of nooks and crannies where zombies and zombie monkeys can hide. When Ángela finally gets to be an active player, rather than a passive figure of mystery, the film sometimes evokes the frenzied scares of the original. Nick is a great supporting character, managing to be both a likeable shlub and competent survivor. There are some fun moments with an outboard motor that deliberately evoke comparisons with the lawnmower scene from Dead Alive.
In the end, however, the movie never quite rises to the level of the first two films. Yes, it’s an above average horror film, but there’s nothing new here, nothing to make it stand out in a crowded field of similar zombie movies. The cast is whittled down as they try to escape, there’s a plot twist or two, and some gory set pieces. There’s also the standard stinger, despite assurances that this is the last film of the series. It’s all just a bit too familiar, though it’s technically well made.
The original [REC] was a racing car of a film, taking hard turns, revving the engine into the red, and threatening at any moment to wreck the entire cast, crew, and viewers. [REC] 4 is more of a family sedan, giving you a comfortable ride without breaking the speed limit. That said, it’s still well worth a viewing, especially if you keep your expectations relatively low.
Jaume Balagueró (Sleep Tight, [Rec], [Rec] 2, Films to Keep You Awake: To Let, Fragile, Darkness, The Nameless)
Jaume Balagueró (Quarantine, Quarantine 2: Terminal, [Rec], [Rec] 2, Films to Keep You Awake: To Let, Fragile, Darkness, The Nameless ) and Manu Díez ([Rec] 2).
Manuela Velasco, María Alfonsa Rosso, Héctor Colomé, Emilio Buale, Paco Manzanedo, Mariano Venancio, Ismael Fritschi, Críspulo Cabezas, Cristian Aquino and Paco Obregón.
[Rec] 4: Apocalypse is the only installment of the franchise that’s not filmed as found footage. Only the beginning of [REC] 3: Genesis was filmed with the found footage style.
The possessed girl, Tristana Medeiros, who started the outbreak is the only character to appear in all four films.
Tristana Medeiros is played by a man, actor Javier Botet.