[REC] 4: Apocalypse: more of the same
by Alfonso Rivera
- The fourth instalment in the REC saga, directed by Jaume Balagueró, shows signs of weariness and a lack of originality, despite its different setting
Last June, in an interview with Cineuropa conducted in the context of the honorary award given to him by the Madrilenian Nocturna festival, Jaume Balagueró assured us that in his new movie, [REC] 4: Apocalypse [+see also:
interview: Jaume Balagueró
film profile], which today opened the Sitges Festival, “the audience will finally find out the answers to the questions that were raised in the previous instalments. We have tried to make a film that is a celebration of horror and good fun, through pure adrenaline and excitement.” And the filmmaker, who made the first two instalments in the series together with Paco Plaza, makes a considerable effort to achieve this goal.
And so the movie – which was screened a few days ago at Toronto and, just like the previous episodes, was produced by Catalan outfit Filmax – kicks off right where the first two films left off: in the same block of flats in Barcelona where all the chaos, madness and panic had been unleashed before. But the camera is no longer being handled by a journalist, but rather by the director himself: that novel method of narrating (which went on to be used in other successful films) convincingly brought the story closer to the viewer, who felt very much hemmed in by those hellish walls. Now, Balagueró, in his quest for a more complete cinematic spectacle, shifts his lens in almost hysterical fashion from the stern to the prow of a quarantined boat, on board which – as dictated by the screenplay written by the director together with Manu Díez – reporter Ángela Vidal (Manuela Velasco) and the man that rescued her have been brought in handcuffs.
Rust pervades not only the physical space, but also the frames of the film and the air that we breathe: there is an attempt to transfer that same claustrophobia we felt in the block of flats in Barcelona to a huge ship that gradually succumbs to terror, just as the fans were hoping. But what actually happens ends up being rather predictable, and the element of surprise is really conspicuous by its absence. If we judge it against the benchmark set by the Alien films, [REC] 4: Apocalypse is ultimately tiresome, however much its production design surpasses that of the previous works in this encyclopaedia of horror.
Nor does the acting help to send shivers up the audience’s spine, as they are directed to a minimal degree: perhaps the director paid more attention to the setting of this sinister ship than he did to the humans aboard it. Balagueró has injected a slight element of humour through the character played by María Alfonsa Rosso, whose confusion is connected to the third episode of the franchise, which – directed by Paco Plaza alone – unfolded at a blood-drenched wedding. That movie put a wonderful spin on the saga not only by investing heavily in the most frenzied blood and gore, but also by offering us sidesplitting moments of laughter. This does not occur in [REC] 4: Apocalypse, and it is sorely missed...
Nevertheless, as Balagueró himself said before on this website, Spanish genre films are in rude health and are starting to be highly regarded abroad, and over the next few days, Sitges will be demonstrating this perfectly with such examples as Shrew’s Nest [+see also:
interview: Esteban Roel and Juanfer An…
film profile], produced and presented by Álex de la Iglesia, as well as Sergio Caballero’s La distancia. The festival audience will be able to attest to it. And we will be there to keep you informed on all of it.
(Translated from Spanish)