A few weeks ago I reviewed the [REC] trilogy in advance of the fourth film being released, however, I had the pleasant surprise of having the opportunity to watch the fourth installment before it’s actually released anywhere in the world, so I gladly took the opportunity with both hands and I enjoyed what is scheduled to be the final piece of the [REC] franchise.
I loved the first two films but was considerable less impressed with the third installment, so I wasn’t sure what to expect with the fourth movie in the franchise, especially as it kept the same camera style as the third entry rather than the vastly superior style of the first two films, but thankfully that is the only aspect it did keep, making the third film actually completely irrelevant to the rest of the story.
Whilst it is a vast improvement on the third and a decent end to the franchise, it is not as good as the opening two films
Angela (Velasco) wakes up imprisoned on a boat following what happened in the apartment building in Barcelona. She has no memory of her being infected with the parasite and doesn’t understand why she is being kept prisoner. She is not alone though as anyone else who survived going into the apartment building, including a SWAT Team (not the same SWAT team from the second film).
It soon emerges that they have been quarantined whilst doctors ensure that whatever caused the events in Barcelona have finally been wiped out. After studying the video tapes from all of the cameras that were present in the building, the crew are horrified by the footage of Angela being infected with the sizeable parasite and set out to cut it out of her.
Meanwhile, someone has released an infected monkey and soon the infection starts spreading throughout the ship and with no-where to hide, it becomes a matter of time for everyone concerned, with the only hope being to destroy the parasite.
So why is it better than the third film but not as good as the first two?
Well let me start out with a question that I asked myself at the end of this film, what the hell did the third film have to do with the rest of the franchise? It’s not even remotely similar to the other three in terms of style, atmosphere or even characters. Other than a brief reference at the beginning of this film, there is no connection between the events of Genesis and the rest of the franchise. It seems almost completely pointless. Had Apocalipsis been the third installment in a trilogy then it would have been one of the best horror trilogies of all time. Granted, it wouldn’t have ended with a bang, but it would have been a far better franchise without the addition of the third film.
So anyway, what’s good about this film? Well at the beginning of the film the characters are still in Barcelona and you see some of the infected characters from the first film return to very small cameos before they are eventually seen off by the SWAT team. It was nice to have that familiarity present in the opening scene, even if it didn’t continue. The return of Angela is also extremely welcome, and she has made the full transition from someone who has a generally happy and ambitious demeanour, to a far, far darker character. You are left guessing until near the very end whether she still has the parasite inside of her as her behaviour suggests that she doesn’t, but then again it was the same in the majority of the same film, and that level of intrigue is very interesting.
When characters start becoming infected they are seen struggling to fight against it, and the desperate pleas of some recently infected as they beg the rest of the crew not to kill them before being shot in the middle of the forehead. With a confined environment it is very likely that any infection would spread fast and therefore the merciless nature in which some of the characters are killed is very realistic.
One aspect I did also like is that the virus acts differently than in previous films. The Alien franchise uses an interesting aspect which is that when a living thing is covered by a face-hugger, the resulting alien that bursts through the chest is not only the DNA of the alien, but also the DNA of it’s host. For example, in Alien3 the alien comes out of a dog and is considerably more canine in appearance and behaviour, the hybrid at the end of Alien vs Predator inherits the latter’s separating jaw and the one at the end of Prometheus is considerably sleeker than normal thanks to coming through what is effectively an octopus.
You may be wondering why I am mentioning that, it’s because the virus sources from different creatures in the franchise and the reaction/mutation is completely different. In the first two the infection comes from a dog and the symptoms are very similar to rabies, whereas in this the characters develop welts, become considerable more simian in appearance (such as the teeth in the below picture) and the virus mutates when it travels through different species, which again I like.
Much like the first two films, the characters are believable and you can become invested in them because of this (but they’re not perfect and I’ll go into why), something which I definitely can’t say about the third film. There is a scene towards the end where the closest thing that the film has to an antagonist traps another member of the crew in a room with infected, and you see that character go through the anger and then fear of what is about to happen and knowing that there is nothing that they can do to stopping.
Despite that, there are a few flaws with the film and one of them is much like the third film they add in a fat character with a beard with an attempt at some comic relief. It doesn’t really work as the character just isn’t that interesting.
There is also something that I realised as I was watching the fourth installment and that is what is referred to as “The Indiana Jones Effect” in The Big Bang Theory. In “Raiders of the Lost Ark” Indiana Jones doesn’t actually impact the story at all, every event would have still happened, regardless of whether he was there or not, and it’s the same in pretty much the whole [REC] franchise with Angela. Angela doesn’t really affect the story in any major way throughout the franchise. You could take her out and the events of all of the films remain largely the same.
In the first film the people in the building, including the fireman and policeman would still get infected, regardless of whether Angela was there or not. The SWAT team and the kids from the second film would have still gone into the building, Father Owen wouldn’t have found a viable source of blood from the original source and in the fourth installment, those infected would have still been quarantined on the boat and people would have still gotten infected from the monkey. Angela, other than maybe the final two minutes of the second film, has precisely zero major impact on the plot of any of the three films that she appears in. Upon realising that I suddenly found myself becoming detached from her as a character.
Infact, despite the very real feel of the characters, and that you feel invested in them, they aren’t actually developed well at all. The characters are somewhat predictable, one dimensional and typecast really. They’re not awful characters, don’t get me wrong, but only one of them (the main antagonist) ever really shows more than one dimension.
My biggest criticism of the fourth installment though is that they keep the third person perspective from the third one. One of the (main) reasons that the Genesis doesn’t work is because third person isn’t scary. Not that keeping it first person would have helped Genesis climb from the “poor” category but it would have made it scarier, and that could have helped here.
I don’t feel the same tension with third person that I do with first person because you don’t experience it as the character would. If you don’t see it from the character’s perspective then it becomes considerably more predictable and I was able to call what was happening throughout and for me there is nothing more tedious than watching a predictable horror film.
It’s a nice way to round of the franchise. It’s a decent enough film without ever getting close to the emotional impact as the first in the franchise, although it would have been hard to have that same level without using 1st person again.
It’s not a bad horror film at all, I’ve seen far, far worse (Genesis for example), but ultimately it rounds off a franchise where the best two films were the first two. It could have stopped there and it would have been a much better franchise.
When it eventually gets realised I would recommend it, but don’t judge the rest of the franchise on this installment.