'[REC]3: Genesis'

Instead of frightening, the gore and cartoonish violence are mostly just gleefully over-the-top in this third entry in the Spanish horror series.

The wedding guests just want to have fun in “[REC]3: Genesis,” the third entry in the Spanish horror series conceived by Jaume Balaguero and Paco Plaza. With Plaza now helming solo, the series ditches some of its trademark p.o.v. footage style and gloomy aesthetics for this prequel, set during a wild party that gets wilder when the zombie virus hits the dance floor. Instead of frightening, the resulting gore and cartoonish violence are mostly just gleefully over-the-top. Euro theatrical auds and worldwide smallscreen viewers will again eat it up.

Early scenes are set outside the church where Koldo (Diego Martin) and Clara (Leticia Dolera) are getting married. Adria (Alex Monner), a cousin of the groom, has brought a camera and puts himself in playful competition with the wedding’s videographer, Atun (Mr. B.), who works for Filmax (the pic’s actual production company). Atun has a lot of fancy equipment and loves to throw around terms and names like “cinema verite” and “Dziga Vertov.”

The attractive bride and groom are very much in love, with Koldo singing a romantic song after they exchange vows. Also present is kind uncle Victor (Emilio Mencheta), who was recently bitten by a dog he thought was dead. During the evening reception at a chic mansion, Victor feels increasingly ill until his transformation into a hungry zombie is complete, causing him to infect an old lady, at which point all hell breaks loose.

In the confusion that follows, the newlyweds lose sight of each other while fighting off the increasingly large zombie hordes. They get help from colorful supporting characters, including a SpongeBob Squarepants impersonator who’s had to change his name to Johnny Sponge for legal reasons.

Pic’s highlight is undoubtedly a sequence in which Clara, in full bridal regalia, attacks her blood-hungry assailants with a chainsaw. Not quite as iconic is Koldo’s decision to strap on medieval armor to protect himself, though thankfully, thesps Martin and Dolera do manage to suggest their characters are so head-over-heels for each other, they’re willing to do some really crazy things to be reunited.

Overall tone combines some scares, a little religious mumbo-jumbo and lots of caricatured bloodshed that is clearly played for laughs. This third “[REC]” doesn’t bring to mind any zombie films so much as it does the early work of local schlockmeister Alex de la Iglesia, in particular “The Day of the Beast.” Not coincidentally, Atun even looks like the bespectacled de la Iglesia, who’s also known for his sharply produced and hilarious mash-ups of violence, comedy and grotesquerie.

Though the series’ earlier dark-greenish aesthetics are briefly referenced in a scene inside an air duct, the footage shot by Atun and Adria is not the only thing auds get to see, since there’s also a “classical” camera whose operator is not part of the action. Combined with its more comedic inclination and the fact most of the action is decently lit, the film feels like a welcome departure that keeps things fresh. Editing, production design, costumes and cheesy special effects are all aces, while the full-blown score by Mikel Salas moves things even further away from “[REC]2,” which had no musical accompaniment.

A fourth installment, “[REC]: Apocalypse,” will be helmed by Balaguero.

[REC]3: Genesis

Spain

Production

A Magnolia Pictures (in U.S.) release of a Filmax Entertainment presentation and production, in association with REC Genesis, Canal Plus Espana, Ono, TVE, TV3. (International sales: Filmax Intl., Barcelona.) Produced by Julio Fernandez, Jaume Balaguero. Executive producers, Julio Fernandez, Carlo Fernandez. Directed by Paco Plaza. Screenplay, Plaza, Luiso Berdejo.

Crew

Camera (color, HD), Pablo Rosso; editor, David Gallart; music, Mikel Salas; production designer, Gemma Fauria; costume designer, Olga Rodal; sound (Dolby Digital), Xavi Mas; visual effects, Alex Villagrassa; special makeup effects, David Ambit; casting, Cristina Campos. Reviewed at Berlin Film Festival (market), Feb. 14, 2012. (Also in SXSW Film Festival -- Midnighters.) Running time: 79 MIN.

With

Carla Nieto, Leticia Dolera, Diego Martin, Alex Monner, Mireia Ros, Ismael Martinez, Ana Isabel Velasquez, Emilio Mencheta, Blai Llopis, Mr. B. (Spanish, French dialogue)

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