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[REC]3: Genesis: SXSW Review

[REC]3: Genesis Still - H 2012

The Bottom Line

Zombie prequel distances itself from series with entertaining blend of silliness and scares.

Director

Paco Plaza

Cast

Leticia Dolera, Javier Botet, Diego Martín, Carla Nieto, Àlex Monner, Mireia Ros, Ismael Martínez, Claire Baschet

Venue

South By Southwest film festival, Midnighters (Magnolia)

The mysterious prequel in the Genesis series provides a new outlook on the zombie franchise.

AUSTIN - Wisely breaking free of its format while finding a very effective balance of scares and comic relief, [REC]3: Genesis jumps back to before the first film's story and, though it still can't make sense of its weird premise, has a lot of fun there. Though limited in commercial terms by its subtitles, the Spanish import will please serious genre fans and may win back some who found [REC]2 underwhelming.

Set at a large wedding in the Spanish countryside, the movie nods to the saga's camcorder-POV origins by spending its first quarter bouncing between footage shot by a professional wedding videographer and assorted family members. Only when the first eruption of violence leads to the destruction of the pro's camera, at the 22-minute mark, does director Paco Plaza offer the film's title card and switch to conventional cinematography.

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Whatever the implications of the subtitle "Genesis," the script does nothing to explain how the saga's odd zombie/demon mashup works, or even how it began. This movie's outbreak starts with an uncle's dog-bite wound, but before the man transforms we spy unexplained hazmat-attired workers on the horizon -- something biological is at play here, but we never learn what. And how the infection turns victims into vessels for Satan isn't explained either, though the wedding setting means a priest is on hand to recognize demons for what they are.

Gobbledygook premise aside, the pic hits a rollicking zombie-attack stride by the half-hour mark. If the violence itself is fairly ordinary zombie carnage (these flesh-eaters are mostly of the slow variety, if you're wondering), attempts to escape the compound have an added search-and-rescue urgency since the lovely bride and groom were separated at the melee's start.

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The couple are the focus of the film, and their determination to find each other allows for imagery that's comic without detracting from the tension: He dons armor, mace and shield from a church exhibit; she finds a chainsaw in a downstairs workspace, and they hack their way toward each other.

When the bride shouts "this is my day!" while slicing off limbs, the movie hits exactly the right funny/gruesome pitch and stays there for some time. That doesn't keep its eventual serious notes from hitting home, though -- if the final scenes of Genesis do little to explain how the epidemic entered the world, they do offer a very satisfying, even emotional conclusion to this chapter.

Venue: South By Southwest film festival, Midnighters (Magnolia)
Production Company: Filmax Entertainment
Cast: Leticia Dolera, Javier Botet, Diego Martín, Carla Nieto, Àlex Monner, Mireia Ros, Ismael Martínez, Claire Baschet
Director: Paco Plaza
Screenwriters: Luiso Berdejo, Paco Plaza
Producers: Jaume Balaguero, Julio Fernadez
Executive producers: Carlos Fernandez, Julio Fernandez
Director of photography: Pablo Rosso
Production designer:
Music: Mikel Salas
Costume designer:
Editors: David Gallart, Marti Roca
No rating, 80 minutes