[Rec] Apocalypse DVD Review
Directed by Jaume Balagueró
Written by Jaume Balagueró and Manu Díez
2014, Region 2, 95 minutes, Rated 18 (UK)
DVD released on 2nd March 2015
Manuela Velasco as Ángela Vidal
Paco Manzanedo as Guzmán
Héctor Colomé as Dr. Ricarte
Ismael Fritschi as Nic
Críspulo Cabezas as Lucas
Mariano Venancio as Capitán Ortega
At last – a third instalment of my favourite Spanish zombie franchise. I was beginning to think they'd never get around to it. Six years after the last instalment, the third [Rec] film is finally here, taking its place next to the other two and closing down the trilogy, this time on a boat. It's a ship [Rec] if you will.
For the first time in the series, the found footage conceit is abandoned in favour of a traditional setup, losing its faux-realism in the process, but allowing for a relatively slow build-up and expansion of the mythos. Picking up where the second film left off, we see doe-eyed reporter Angela Vidal rescued from the now very familiar Barcelona apartment building where the first two were set and relocated to an offshore oil tanker equipped for zombie quarantine. As the military doctors prod and poke at (the apparently very human) Angela, nobody seems to anticipate the return of the virus from other quarters – namely an infected rage monkey, 28 Days Later style.
In spite of my (well aired) dislike of most things found footage, I'll happily put 2007's [Rec] in my top five zombie movies of all time, being one of the most tense, exciting cinematic experiences I've ever had. Its sequel, while more of the same, is pretty good too – explaining its zombie apocalypse in a smart, unexpected manner few of us could ever have seen coming. So it was with great trepidation I approached Apocalypse, hoping that it wouldn't completely undermine the brilliance of what had come before, by turning it into a comedy or setting it at a wedding for no reason at all; that sort of thing. There's no wedding (although one of the boat's quarantined is a wedding guest), it's not a comedy (although there is more humour than the previous two) and even better, the other films stand up just fine after watching it. Apocalypse may not be up to the standard of its predecessors, but it makes a tremendously entertaining zombie action film nevertheless.
The return of Manuela Velasco is most welcome. While most found footage heroes exist mostly to serve as the eyes of their audience, Vidal remains one of the subgenre's most memorable, so powerful was Velasco's performance in [Rec]. Here she undergoes a familiar horror transformation from damsel in distress to kick-ass action heroine. The switch to Ellen Ripley mode works well for her, showing just what she can do when she's not having to lug a camera around the whole time. She's supported by a variety of survivor types, from the hulking SWAT team member to the nerdy slob Vidal fanboy (a nice touch) who make up for their lack of character with tenacity and grisly death throes. The wider scope for action and the boat setting gets us harpoon guns, a boat motor being used like a chainsaw and – best of all – zombie monkeys.
While it's not quite a return to form for the franchise (simply because that bar is raised so very high), Apocalypse is much better than the alternative. It's bloody, action-packed and frenetic, featuring a great performance from Velasco and well-shot, exciting zombie violence; something the subgenre has been sorely lacking of late, being trapped in a cycle of low-budget cinema and talky, morose Walking Dead television. It's clichéd and occasionally predictable – and its twist will annoy some – but [Rec]: Apocalypse is the most fun I've had with a zombie film in years. It leaves the door open for another sequel, but there's a feeling that the franchise should quit now, while the going's good; a solid trilogy with a nifty hit rate of three out of three. You know, out of the only three [Rec] films that exist.
Video and Audio:
The action is surprisingly well-lit, while remaining as atmospheric and claustrophobic as a [Rec] movie should. The sharp visuals do a great job of bringing out Velasco's wonderfully expressive eyes and the vivid splatter which so often surrounds her. It's every bit as loud as it should be, especially during the zombie attacks. Which is most of the time.
'Special feature' says the heading on the DVD menu. 'Special feature' is right, as a single making of documentary is all you're getting. Thankfully, it's a pretty good one, with Velasco once again channelling her inner news reporter to show us around the Apocalypse set (an impressively real boat). Highlighting the difficulties of shooting in such a confined space, it makes one appreciate how much effort went into this sequel, found footage or not.