"[REC] 4: Apocalypse" Review
After co-directing the first two episodes of the saga together, Paco Plaza and Jaume Balaguero decided to go separate ways, with the commitment that each one directed a final [REC] film.
Paco Plaza performed his deranged humorous catharsis in [REC] 3: Genesis. Jaume Balaguero returned to [REC] 4: Apocalypse, with the responsibility of finally closing the tale.
On paper, the deal worked better for Balaguero, who with control of the fourth part also had control of the end of the story. He presumably had greater power over the narrative.
But the truth is that who came out winning was Paco Plaza. [REC] 3: Genesis was funny, brazen and without the burden of tying all the ropes. [REC] 4, on the other hand, didn't leave a big mark.
Jaume Balaguero begins [REC] 4: Apocalypse returning very briefly to the infamous infected building in Barcelona, where a group of Special Forces of the Spanish Army has taken control, with the specific mission of demolishing the place.
After being attacked by some infected, the apparent leader of the unit, Guzman (Paco Manzanedo) managed to survive and rescue Angela Vidal (Manuela Velasco). The last time we saw Angela (back in [REC] 2) she was possessed by the demonic parasite, on the verge of finally getting out of the building.
Angela (with the demon inside, we presume) manages, effectively, to leave the building. But the place where she wakes up is rather different from what she expected.
Jaume Balaguero moves the action to an oil ship tanker, where a group of military and scientists have the mission of ensuring that the survivors of both incidents (the building outbreak of [REC] and [REC] 2 and the wedding of [REC] 3) are really infection-free.
From then on, Balaguero completely abandons the found footage genre, concentrating on more traditional cinematography to tell the story of this group of isolated people on a ship.
The ship is full of new characters, including communications technician Nick (Ismael Fritschi), Captain Ortega (Mariano Venancio), Dr. Ginard (Paco Obregón) and the sole survivor of the [REC] 3 wedding, the nameless Koldo's grandmother played by María Alfonsa Rosso.
Many of the militaries don't have full knowledge of what the scientist/priests are doing there. Their paranoia plus that of the survivors begins to generate friction in the crew. The fact that they are on a ship isolated from civilization only generates more distrust.
Of course, the epidemic will begin to spread inside the ship, generating the chaos to which we are already accustomed in this saga.
The fundamental problem with [REC] 4: Apocalypse is that is just... boring. Abandoning found footage was not a good idea in this case because it diminishes its trait and takes away the intimacy of the story and unlike [REC] 3: Genesis, the replacement doesn't have a great personality. Paco Plaza made it work with [REC] 3: Genesis because there was an organic transition (the first act if documented as a found footage) towards the exaggerated, dark humor self-parody.
But [REC] 4: Apocalypse aspires to be experienced in the same way as the first two entries. It's a straight-up outbreak horror. And although Balaguero's directing chops are technically correct, the interest is simply not there to embrace that tone without the found footage aesthetic.
What's Your Rating For [REC] 4: Apocalypse?
To move the setting to a boat was possibly the second big mistake. Something as little common and foreign as an oil ship tanker marks a drastic departure from what worked in [REC], which was precisely the intrusion of something horrendous in a context that we all knew like neighbors in a building or a wedding. The ship feels clinical, literally far from what we consider home and therefore it's just difficult to identify with the characters that try to survive there.
Then, there is the fact that [REC] 4: Apocalypse serves as the final chapter, but the plot is full of new characters that we have never met and that, simply, we don't care about. Even worst is the fact that the only character we know, Angela, is mistakenly perceived as the villain for the vast majority of the time. The point of empathy is just focused on the wrong people. By the time the final twist re-establishes her as a survivor, the audience is simply looking at their watch, waiting for the ending.
Yes, [REC] 4: Apocalypse does its job of marking a clear closure of the story arc starring Angela Vidal and that doomed building in Barcelona. But to do so, Balagueró makes an unnecessary, gigantic and boring turn that includes the explosion of an oil ship tanker that nobody asked for.
In addition, Balaguero betrays himself by leaving open the possibility of new movies (the demonic parasite is devoured by a fish) and the final coda, with Angela and Nick, riding a taxi in a comedic tone, simply feel disconnected from the rest of the work.
[REC] 4: Apocalypse is fundamental for completionists, but easily dispensable for anybody else.
Title: [REC] 4: Apocalypse
Release Year: 2014
Director(s): Jaume Balagueró
Actors: Manuela Velasco, Paco Manzanedo, Héctor Colomé, a.o.
© 2019 Sam Shepards