Thursday, January 8, 2015

[REC]4: Apocalypse

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion, that's fine. To each their own. These reviews are not meant to be statements of facts or endorsements, I am just sharing my opinions and my perspective when watching the film and is not meant to reflect how these films should be viewed. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 0-5. 0, of course, being unwatchable. 1, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being great and 5, being epic! And if you enjoy these reviews feel free to share them and follow the blog or follow me on Twitter (@RevRonster) for links to my reviews and the occasional live-Tweet session of the movie I'm watching! I think this movie is all about false advertising because I didn't once see En Sabah Nur in it.  What a rip!

[REC]4:  Apocalypse – 3 out of 5

After watching the movie Quarantine, I learned it was actually an American remake of Spanish film called [REC].  At the behest of my horror nerd girlfriend, we spent a whole night watching the film, the sequel and the third film.  Even though I disliked the American version (mostly because of the terrible performance from Jennifer “I only talk out the side of my mouth” Carpenter) I was enthralled with the original.  The film was both a possession and a zombie film, it was unlike anything else I’ve seen.  The way the film married religious imagery and made a outbreak film that had both science and religious themes working for it was extremely interesting.  Even though the sequel wasn’t received well, I like the way the second elaborated on the story, and the expansion it took with the background of the outbreak was very intriguing and made for a lot of scary moments.  The third, however, I wasn’t too thrilled about.  The film took a more dark comedy route and it felt like the rules of the outbreak were changing and it made for a film that didn’t stand up like the previous two did for me.  However, when I heard they were doing a fourth and final film, I was pretty excited.
And kinda like this picture, an armored officer had to come and calm me down.

Apocalypse opens during the final moments of the second film and we see the special forces team rescuing doomed reporter Ángela Vidal (Manuela Velasco) from the horrors she suffered through in the first two films.  Afterwards, Ángela suddenly finds herself on a cargo ship in the middle of the ocean with an elderly survivor from the third film and the two special forces officers that rescued her; Guzmán (Paco Manzanedo) and Lucas (Críspulo Cabezas).  They find out that the ship holds a research crew trying to find a cure for this demonic plague.  However, after a test subject escapes (or is released?  DUN DUN DUUUNNNN!), the ship quickly becomes overrun with the zombie/demons…but the research team thinks they may have found a way to create a cure after the ship’s communications expert Nic (Ismael Fritschi) restored the footage from Ángela’s camera and it seems that she is infected with the host organism causing this horror.  Now the team must do whatever they can to kill the larva in Ángela’s body and stop the beasts that are taking over the ship.
"This is our communications officer Nic.  He told us that he invented Google..."

Like I said, I love the first two but was disappointed in the third one.  The duo that directed the first two split up and decided to do sequels on their own, with Paco Plaza doing the third one and Jaume Balagueró taking the helm for Apocalypse.  One thing I will say, in retrospect, of the third film was that it wasn’t afraid to venture into new territory and stopped itself from just repeating the same formula and doing what so many horror film franchises do.  The film made a joke of its “found footage” past and wasn’t afraid to add a little comedy to other elements of the film.  While I didn’t think the humor was the most successful and ended up being too jarring of a change in tone, I admire the desire to change up the scene.  And, like I said, the film felt like it was starting to change the rules of their outbreak and it felt like it was drifting away from the religious element—sure, there was a part where a prayer caused the zombie/demons to stop in their tracks and freeze but there seemed to be a very definite move away from the religious element that made this film stand out in the outbreak/zombie genre.  This is also a complaint about this film…
Puberty effects everyone differently.

They really should be enlisting the help of the creatures
of the deep but Aquaman wants to see how this
plays out first.
I really enjoyed the story in Apocalypse and the setting of it being on a cargo ship but, like the third film, it felt like the film and story wanted almost nothing to do with the spiritual element the series began with.  The focus is on a cure and that’s fine because the whole point of the franchise was a priest trying to find a scientific explanation and cure for demon possession; however, in this final outing, there’s very little in the form of demon possession and supernatural causes for all this madness and, when you factor in that there are literally zombie/demon monkeys (fuck yo spoilers!), the film feels like it is once again rewriting the rules and pretty much completely abandoning the supernatural stuff that started this film franchise…and was subsequently not used in the American remake.  This wasn’t a deal breaker for me because the story is still interesting and the zombie/demon monkeys were scary as fuck (and kinda amusing at the same time, somehow), but it just was a tad disappointing to see the film not continue down the supernatural path that, in my opinion, was done so well in the second film—however, a lot of people didn’t like the second one so this divergence might please some of the fans.
If evolution is real, how come there's zombie monkeys?  Checkmate!

Additionally, it was cool the film tied itself up with the girl who started it all.  Seeing Ángela Vidal return and close out the franchise was a smart choice and it got to show us what happened to her after the second film.  Granted, her story didn’t pack the punch I wanted to see from it and the story went in a direction that varied greatly from the promise the end of the second film gave off (This time I won’t spoil anything for you) and I felt this change was pure gratuity and a backbone-less attempt of not making Vidal a villain after the shocking end to the second feature (okay, that might be a slight spoiler).  However, the reveal and mystery leading up to it was quite satisfying…if not very predictable.
Apparently, Velasco never aged since the 2nd one.

Apocalypse decides to also abandon its “found footage” past.  I applaud this because it means the filmmakers known how to keep their property fresh and knowingly went against just repeating itself.  Too many franchise built on this gimmick ride that thing until it’s lost all meaning and then end up making each and every film look exactly the same until they decide that they are no longer going to have a ghost haunt another white family but, instead, terrorize a different race…I’m not picking on any “found footage” franchise in particular…I swear.
And the franchise I'm totally not talking about also made me look like this after
totally not watching it.

Like the first two films, the film works its atmosphere quite well and made the cargo ship and the ensuing outbreak in it definitely horrifying.  While this wasn’t nearly as scary as the first two films, the film did get my old ticker pumping and more than once had the hairs raised on the back of my neck.  Additionally, the film also did a great job of making some truly badass moments—something, I will admit the third film did also at times.   And when you add in a funny moment here and there, you get a film that was a marriage of the scares of the first two and the humor of the third…although, I wish they would have worked in a little more of the supernatural stuff from the second.
And they had to work in this scary bitch again, didn't they?

His face may look intense but he's really just asking where
the nearest vending machine is.
Acting wise, the [REC] series has never slouched (well...maybe in the third one).  While many of the characters don’t have much depth to them, they are all played well enough that it’s easy to look past all that.  For example, there is no real backstory to Guzmán and Lucas beyond them being members of the team that set the charges to blow the doomed apartment building and rescue our terrified reporter and there’s nothing really known about the comms man Nic beyond he’s a fan of Vidal, likes chocolate, and isn’t really good at handling the horror shit.  However, all the actors involved aren’t phoning it in and there performances are so good that it is stupidly easy to look passed that none of the characters are really developed…the exception being Ángela and the elderly lady that survived the third film.  I actually really enjoyed her inclusion because it connected all the films, and the fact her character seems to be suffering from dementia and has no memory of the horror that happened and actually thinks her family is alive and stuck her in a home made her very sympathetic and very endearing…which, of course, is a bad combination in a horror film.
Such an adorable old lady...I knew I'd miss you from the moment the film began.

[REC]4: Apocalypse might not have been the strongest of endings to a franchise that started so epically but the film isn’t terrible.  The story is cool, the mix of horror and action worked well, the characters are tremendously acted, the zombie/demons are still terrifying (and so are the monkeys), it was cool to see that this film was able to incorporate all the films and feel more self-contained than other horror franchises, and seeing Manuela Velasco return once last time to play the plucky reporter was all kinds of neat (and yes, I said neat); however, the film just didn’t feel like it had the punch to be a final outing (it sorta felt like a throwaway sequel that would be somewhere in the middle) and the lack of supernatural element tore itself away from the spirit of the original story and made it look more like a generic zombie tale than something unique.  Still, it didn’t disappoint me very much and wasn’t agonizing to watch like the third film was.

Of course, the film does win points for killing zombies with a motorboat engine.

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