[REC]3: Genesis: SXSW Review

[REC]3: Genesis Still - H 2012

[REC]3: Genesis Still - H 2012

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

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