Tag: paco plaza

[REC] 3: Genesis

[REC] 3: Genesis (2012)
★ / ★★★★

It is the wedding day of Clara (Leticia Dolera) and Koldo (Diego Martín), but they are not yet aware that it is going to be the most horrific day of their lives. While waiting for the bride to arrive, Koldo notices his uncle’s hand injury in which the latter claims that he has been bitten by a dog that he thought was dead. He states it is nothing to be alarmed about because he feels absolutely fine, just very excited for the ceremony to begin. During the reception, however, the once energetic uncle begins to show symptoms of a disease: lumbering as if drunk, throwing up blood, and eventually trying to bite fellow guests. Those who are bitten quickly exhibit similar symptoms, thrusting what should be a happy day into complete mayhem.

Based on the screenplay by Paco Plaza and Luiso Berdejo, directed by the former, “[REC]³ Génesis” offers only one surprise during its short but extremely laborious running time. Unlike Jaume Balagueró and Paco Plaza’s “[REC]” and “[REC]²,” the handheld camera is abandoned when the bloodshed reaches its first gear. This is an interesting choice given that it is the series’ signature, so wonderfully utilized in the first installment as genuine tension and horror is generated in an increasingly impossible situation.

Leaving the first person point of view is the right choice, which might have made a big statement if the film had been any good, because prior to that point, the teenager who holds the camera shakes it so vigorously, at times I wondered if the bright flashing lights in the dance hall had given him a seizure. Aside from the uncle telling Koldo his story about the dog, nothing interesting happens in the first twenty minutes. You can literally walk away from the screen for an extended period of time and not miss a plot point. This absence of an attempt to do anything with the material while the characters celebrate is toxic to the picture. If anything, the writers should have worked harder to try to keep our attention by giving us reasons why we should a give a hoot about the main characters while making us feel uneasy before the inevitable gore appeals to the lowest common denominator.

The sheer laziness of the writers is an affront to the art of making movies even if it is for the sake of creating schlock. The chase scenes being painfully standard makes it worse. When an infected appears on the left, the characters run to the right and vice-versa. It is laughable, lightyears from scary, because it is like watching an old video game where the avatars can only move left, right, up, and down. Come to think of it, I probably would have had more fun playing a video game instead of sitting through the picture. At least I would have had control of the placement of the avatar to avoid being hurt or dying.

Did it ever occur to the makers of the film, especially when the characters are outdoors, that it is an option to perhaps climb a tree and stay quiet until the chaos runs its course? Lastly, the script fails to provide information that moves the series forward. It is more concerned about delivering gore especially when a chainsaw becomes involved. Its sick attention as to how person ought to be cut in half or how someone’s face ought to be bashed in is lamentable. I felt sorry for the filmmakers because their work implies that their imagination is about the size of a grain of sand.

The Christmas Tale

The Christmas Tale (2006)
★★★★ / ★★★★

It is the day before Christmas when five friends stumble upon a hole in the ground in the woods. At the bottom of it lies a sleeping woman in a Santa Claus outfit. Instead of helping her to get out, they eventually decide to leave her there. After all, missing persons usually come with a reward. It turns out that the twelve-year-olds are right: the woman, Rebeca Expósito (Maru Valdivielso), has pulled off a daring heist. The authorities are looking for her and the two million she has stolen. The kids tell her that if she reveals to them the location of the money, they will throw in a rope so she can climb up. However, if she refuses, they will leave her to die.

Confident in execution and maintaining a palpable level of tension throughout, “Cuento de navidad,” written by Luiso Berdejo and directed by Paco Plaza, is a horror picture that actually surprises. While the scare factor is not very big, it takes place in a specific time period and does not waver from its perspective. That is, the story is told through the eyes of children on the cusp of being teenagers. They argue about what is the right thing to do for each of their sakes, their status as a group, and the thief who might be sitting in her grave.

It captures how it is like to be twelve. They are not taken seriously, as shown in an early scene when they seek help from a cop, they tend to define life through the movies they watch, and they assume the worst out of a situation even after thinking things through. But the material does not only get the personalities right. They wear the right clothes, possess the cool toys, and they have the movies they are not supposed to be watching on VHS tape. It is enjoyable to look into their world. We get a sense of why they are friends.

But these are kids with distinct personalities so, naturally, they disagree over certain courses of action. Moni (Ivana Baquero) and Koldo (Christian Casas) think that they should just let the woman go. While they agree that she is probably dangerous, she is in no shape to come after them. They can simply tie the rope to a tree and throw the other end into the hole. While she pulls herself out, they can run. After all, she does not know where they live. But Peti (Roger Babià) and Eugenio (Daniel Casadellà) want the money, all of it. They argue that the woman’s life is in her hands. All she has to do is tell them where the money is hidden. Tito (Pau Poch), on the other hand, remains mostly apathetic. He is too busy trying to be like Ralph Macchio’s character in “The Karate Kid.”

As the first half continues to build, we wonder how much is enough for Rebeca to endure. Sure, she is a thief but her prolonged suffering made me feel bad eventually. This is a smart move because since it is likely that our sympathy has shifted, the latter half is focused on the group of friends having the scare of their lives. And maybe they deserve to experience that fear. What they did, regardless of one’s age, to that woman is not okay.

“The Christmas Tale” dabbles with the occult and it works wonders. It takes advantage of the impressionability of the children and since we perceive the events through them, reality is somewhat skewed. We are given straight answers, but most of the time we are left to wonder what is actually happening. The final scene is one to remember.

[REC] 2

[REC] 2 (2009)
★★ / ★★★★

“[REC]²,” written and directed by Jaume Balagueró and Paco Plaza, began a few minutes after a reporter (Manuela Velasco) was dragged by a zombie-like creature into darkness. This time, a SWAT team (Óscar Zafra, Ariel Casas, Alejandro Casaseca, Pablo Rosso) and a health minister (Pep Molina) made their way inside the quarantined building to get a specific blood sample. They hoped to make an antidote just in case the biological infection touched the general population. But the Ministry of Health wasn’t telling the truth about his identity. He was actually a priest and there was something in the blood that the Church was determined to have. “[REC]²” was enjoyable because the dark atmosphere, which made its predecessor so chilling, remained foreboding. The hand-held camera remained the picture’s conceit but it still worked. When a character turned a corner, I anticipated that a zombie was right there waiting for its next victim. What I liked most about the the film was it didn’t rely on the atmosphere to keep us interested. Instead of giving us the same concept and the only disparity consisting of different characters running around the apartment complex, it tried to answer questions about what the reporter saw at the end of the first film. That is, the specific reason why the other priest experimented on a little girl and possibly other children. However, “[REC]²” became less interesting when we stopped seeing the events through the SWAT team’s perspective. Three idiotic teenagers (Andrea Ros, Pau Poch, Àlex Batllori) decided to sneak inside from the sewers with, of course, a video camera. There was a sudden shift in tone. Since they argued so much, their situation just felt silly. When they were on screen, I felt like I was watching a banal slasher flick instead of a horror movie with a solid concept. “Let’s get out of here!” insisted one of the doomed teens. But she didn’t have the courage to leave her friends. Why? If I was convinced something was a really bad idea, I won’t do it. I have a brain and a will of my own. It had gotten so irritating, I actually wanted them to get bitten and turn into zombies so there would be no more whining. The movie had a couple of wonderful scares. My favorite, although requiring a leap of faith, was when our protagonists discovered that there was a place within a room invisible to the naked eye. The camera became a necessary tool, not just a conceit, to see the place of interest. While one holding the camera was able to see in darkness, the rest of them were blind. The monster could be right next to them and they would have had no idea. Our hearts beat a little faster for them. It had moments of creativity but the multiple perspectives was executed with a lack of focus. Nevertheless, I give the writer-directors credit for turning “[REC]” upside down. Unlike most sequels of the genre, “[REC]²” felt necessary.


[REC] (2007)
★★★ / ★★★★

Having seen and being impressed with the remake called “Quarantine,” I just had to see the original. I think both are very effective even though they pretty much had the same scenes. In “[REC],” astutely directed by Jaume Balagueró and Paco Plaza, it had less exposition but the audiences quickly cared about the reporter (Manuela Velasco) and her cameraman. The reporter had a certain spunk and enthusiasm and what the cameraman saw, we saw so there was an automatic connection there. Everything starts off pretty light as the reporter interviewed the firemen about their every day happenings. Things quickly went for a darker turn when the firefighters got a call from an old apartment complex. At first, they thought it was just an old woman that fell and needed help. But when she started attacking and biting people, everyone pretty much knew that something more sinister was going on. People started dying in gruesome ways in the hands of zombie-like infected people and they get quarantined by city officials without an ounce of explanation. What I love about this film was its natural ability to build tension after each scene. There were moments when I thought that if I was stuck in the building with them, the exact same thing could happen so I was definitely more than engaged. “The Blair Witch Project” was undoubtedly this picture’s biggest inspiration but it managed to tilt just enough to have an identity of its own. The best part of the movie for me was the last fifteen to twenty minutes when they finally made it inside the apartment on the top floor. Such scenes revealed to us that it had more to it than “28 Days Later”-like zombies. The disease had a history and I wanted to know more about it. (Maybe a sequel?) But, of course, the scares did not end there. I felt like I was in that dark room with them as they tried to use the night vision option on the camera. I tried not to blink because I was expecting those “shock”/”jumpy” moments. But even then I was surprised and things popped out of nowhere. If one is a horror film fan, this is a must-see. However, this is definitely not for those who dislike shaky cameras in order to add some type of realism to its craft.