Available on DVD and On Demand today is the latest installment in the ground-breaking [REC] franchise.
The first two Spanish films have definitely earned their reputations as some of the most genuinely frightening films of the past decade, and shining examples of “found footage” perfection. While the third in the series took a wild turn in a new direction (that I actually really enjoyed, although sometimes I think I am the only one), the news that the director of the original, Jaume Balaguero, would return to helm the fourth installment gave great hope to fans of the quick and dirty terror of the first two films.
However, [REC] 4 has more in common with the often unfairly-derided third film than it does the first two.
The real great news here is the return of Manuela Velasco as the journalist Angela, and the progression of her ferocious character through all of this madness. I mean, the last time we saw Angela, this was happening to her :
When we catch up with the developing story, everyone has been coralled onto an ocean liner staffed with scientists and military, all seeking to either escape or destroy this virus. They neatly tie the third film in by including an elderly woman who was a guest at the disastrous wedding from that installment, and quickly establish that these are the most desperate times. By ditching the hand held style that defined the first two films, we get a much more cinematic experience, and the claustrophobia of the doomed boat is eerily similar to the confined hallways of the apartment building. Integrating the found footage of the originals in a neat twist, the scientists on board the ship piece together what previously happened and try desperately to find a way to cure this plague, which leads to a lot of confusion and yelling. Then an unexpected storm causes a blackout, which leads to a new outbreak and BAM!
A fucking zombie monkey attack!
Yup, you guessed it, the monkey was carrying the virus all along, and someone let it out and now it infected all of the food and we get a horrifying series of action set pieces climaxing with Angela stumbling around in the dark belly of the ocean liner rather than the dark attic of the tenement. The film takes a brief turn into John Carpenter territory when they discover that the parasite that was living within Angela has been transferred elsewhere, and the scene is a great homage to The Thing.
Otherwise, it is pretty typical run for your life stuff, although there is something particularly unnerving about the way these infected move, super-fast and utterly reckless. It is especially frightful as they barrell down the slim underwater corridors of the doomed ship, grunting and dripping with goo.
The whole affair is very well-crafted and tense, punctuated with intense bursts of violence. The infected are suitably disgusting and drippy, and it is great suspenseful fun while it lasts. I enjoyed it very much as the “action-packed thrill-ride” the poster promises, but any fans of the originals who were looking for a return to the genuine scares and creep factor of the first films will most likely be left wanting. This fourth film is apparently meant to be the last in the series, and ends on a suitably bleak but slightly cheesy note.
Overall [REC] 4 is a must see for fans of the series, and a well-executed addition to the tired “zombie/infected” films of the past decade, but really doesn’t bring much new to the table.
I still recommend it, the zombie monkey is priceless!