While most film franchises see a decrease in quality from one film to the next, the [REC] series was actually put back on track with [REC]4: Apocalypse, which brings director Jaume Balaguero back to the helm. Forgoing the found-footage approach that made the first two films so intrinsically frightening, this sequel—supposedly the last one—is still a tight thriller that mixes claustrophobic scares with gloriously gross special effects. And those monkeys…
[REC]4 marks the return of both Balaguero and actress Manuela Velasco, who wisely had nothing to do with the rather lackluster [REC]3: Genesis, which was a complete departure from the main story anyway. The movie immediately kicks off with a callback to the previous films, as soldiers are sent inside the plague-ridden apartment building to rescue newscaster Angela (Velasco). Then…we’re on a ship.
But this is no enjoyable trip out to sea, no leisurely cruise. The menacing Dr. Ricarte (Héctor Colomé) and his team are using an old oil tanker as a last-ditch effort to identify the virus that killed all of the people in the apartment, as well as the reasoning behind Angela’s apparent good health. (Hint: it’s a pretty nefarious reason.) The entire affair is a mystery to the ship’s Captain Ortega (Mariano Venacio) and his tech-savvy second banana Nic (Ismael Fritschi), as well as soldiers Guzmán (Paco Manzanedo) and Lucas (Crispulo Cabezas). No one really understands what’s happening, although everyone should have been immediately suspicious.
To go too much further into the plot would be a disservice to audiences, as it isn’t exactly filled with complicated situations. Angela and the soldiers realize that they’re in the middle of a floating hulk of infectious danger. You see, the plague has made its way onto the ship somehow, and there are a lot of monkeys in cages just waiting to scare the shit out of everything.
[REC]4 isn’t the kind of movie where you spend ages talking about the performances, although everyone involved plays their stereotypical parts well. For her part, Velasco does an excellent job spinning Angela into something of an action hero at times. I could easily see this actress teaming up with Selma Hayek for a bonkers U.S. flick directed by Robert Rodriguez.
Since this is a horror movie, after all, the effects and scares are probably what people are most interested in hearing about, and fans of the previous films will not be disappointed here. The [REC] films aren’t about outlandish kill shots or drawn-out torture, so what we have here can best be described as “rabidly frantic.” The infected are fast and furious with their drool-dripping advancements on people, and the tight confines of the tanker generally force characters into action, rather than allowing them to simply run away all the time. (Though there is still some of that.)
Should this be the final film in this franchise—because all horror endings should be taken with a grain of bloody salt—I’m happy to say it goes out on a high note. The first [REC] is still one of scariest movies I’ve ever seen, and although this sequel doesn’t directly compare, it’s still a tense trip on the high seas. And those monkeys…
[REC] 4: Apocalypse hits theaters and VOD on January 2. Pack your lifejacket.