Who asked for a fourth [REC] film? Who asked for a fourth [REC] film that was a sequel to the second one, not a side story like the third? At least that would have made sense. You know, we could have taken the franchise in new and interesting directions. Instead, we once again follow the exploits of Ángela Vidal (Manuela Velasco), who was the lead in the first film and one of the characters in the second. She’s less hysterical this time, which is a bonus, but it doesn’t stop it from feeling like we’ve done this dance before.
After the second [REC], which in all honesty I barely remember, Ángela gets rescued from the apartment building and wakes up in a laboratory. She’s being tested to see if she’s infected. She escapes, because she’s somehow learned these skills, but soon enough finds out she’s on a ship in the middle of the ocean. There are a few others who have also been taken here. It’s complete isolation. No radio contact and no lifeboats. If an outbreak occurs, it will be contained. At least, that’s the theory.
Do you really expect that to happen? It’s a [REC] movie, so of course not. It turns out that the doctors on the ship are performing tests in order to try to create a vaccine, but soon enough the test subject escapes, infects someone else, and it’s a fight for survival. Ángela is joined by a couple of soldiers and a tech expert. Once again, we’ve got enclosed spaces and a ton of infected individuals who want nothing more than to eat the flesh of the living and make us like one of them.
Of course, the infected individuals are not zombies, even if they very much act like them. I can’t remember exactly what they are, but it had to do with demonic possession or something like that. There’s also a parasite, we learn, and the parasite might be the key to finding the cure. That leads to the first real gross-out moments in the series’ history. It’s too bad that the film isn’t as scary as it can be disgusting, because then we’d have a good movie on our hands.
[REC]4 Apocalypse simply isn’t scary. It mostly consists of jump scares, which grow old. We know Ángela can handle these things by now, so we’re pretty sure that she’ll make it through this. The rest of the people exist so that the infected can eat their flesh. There’s no real character depth or growth, so how are we supposed to care about them? Theoretically, we should be fearful that Ángela will lose her life, and if it wasn’t for a refined no-jokes-allowed attitude, perhaps I would have. She acts more like a soldier in this movie than the actual soldiers. I’m glad she’s no longer an annoying hysterical, but the tables have turned too far in the other direction.
It feels like we’ve been here before. An isolated area that is quarantined — by whichever method available — and filled with infected? It’s kind of a “yawn” at this point, and it really shouldn’t be. Some plot twists attempt to keep things fresh, but feel contrived and arbitrary. Mostly, we’re just following Ángela (and company) wandering around dark hallways just waiting for the bad guys to jump out, say “boo,” and maybe eat one of the secondary characters. I’m done with [REC].
It’s a shame for a franchise to end on a low note, but, then, these films were never particularly good in the first place. Annoying characters and a tone and atmosphere that weren’t particularly scary led to films that were tough to take entirely seriously. The handheld camera, it turns out, helped them scare us. Take that away, as has been done here, and you see everything coming. How did the spinoff, [REC]3 Génesis, somehow manage to be the best in the franchise?
A disappointing conclusion to a series that probably shouldn’t have made it past installment number one, [REC]4 Apocalypse does the same dance as its direct predecessors, yet doesn’t at all benefit from losing the found footage filming style. It’s not scary. We await the monsters simply because it will at least increase the pace and perhaps eliminate some of the secondary characters. We do not fear them. It’s not especially bad, but unless you’re dying to see more of Ángela, you don’t need to see it.