We’ve all been to this wedding, the one that uses its unnecessary decadence to cover up the stifling banality on display. We listen to dull relatives drone on and on about their special girl’s special day, while bored kids taunt the catering staff and the groom’s creepy frat brother fumbles at the bridesmaid’s bra strap in the corner. We sit there and we pretend to enjoy ourselves, while deep in our hearts we secretly pray for a zombie attack to liven things up.
[REC] 3 has been there and wants to share.
Frankly, as high concepts go, you could do a lot worse “zombie apocalypse ties the knot.” The film opens with wealthy Spanish elites wallowing in self-indulgence as the beautiful Clara (Leticia Dolera) weds her beloved Kodo (Diego Martin) in front of their family and friends. Unfortunately, someone’s pudgy uncle suffered a weird bite before the nuptials began, and interrupts the conga line at the reception by taking a big wet chunk out of auntie’s throat. You can guess where things go from there.
That, sadly, is part of the problem. Beyond the basic idea and the few clever gems that spawn from it, [REC] 3 doesn’t improve on the formula much. We settle in to the expected scenario of a small band of survivors fighting through former party guests transformed into cannibalistic undead. The wedding provides a slight wrinkle, when the bride and the groom become separated and must battle their way to each other instead of just looking for an exit. But it strains under the heavy burden of too many zombie movies that preceded it and not enough creative notions to give it some juice.
Director Paco Plaza (who helmed the first two [REC] movies) further develops the series’ religious implications by giving his undead some very Catholic weaknesses. Holy water and Biblical scripture halt them in their tracks, while mirrors reveal demonic spirits possessing the infected. It’s cute, but like many other concepts, it doesn’t go anywhere. The zombies are demons, their arrival heralds the end times and… nothing really. Flashes of satire demonstrate good instincts, as when the bride decapitates multiple zombies while shrieking “this is my day!” But they never progress past the most obvious gags, and while gore fans may enjoy the few new methods of dispatching the undead, the arrival of a chainsaw in Clara’s hands signals an end to any real inventiveness.
The found-footage format on which the series is based runs into problems as well. The filmmakers respond by basically abandoning it when the zombies attack: spending twenty minutes on video of the wedding, hitting us with the title card, and then largely shifting to more traditional filmmaking techniques for the fun and games. The shift comes as a bit of a relief – found footage officially makes baby Jesus cry these days – but the muddled presentation demonstrates just how much this series depends on it. Plaza tries to have his cake and eat it too, which only compounds the film’s already blossoming difficulties.
That makes it hard-going, even at a truncated eighty minutes. Newcomers to the zombie genre might find it engaging, but veterans will spot the tropes a mile away. Once the initial novelty wears off, [REC] 3 leaves us stranded in well-worn territory, without even a snappy twist at the end to get us through. Supposedly there’s a [REC] 4 on the way that will bring the series to a conclusion. Considering that this entry has little in common with the previous two beyond the basic concept, that makes it more of a cul-de-sac than a continuation. As diversions go, you could find worse, but you’re better off plugging in some old Romero classics than slogging through this one. Some weddings just can’t be livened up… no matter how many zombies you add.