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Dustin Putman

[REC] 4  (2015)
2 Stars
Directed by Jaume Balagueró.
Cast: Manuela Velasco, Paco Manzanedo, Ismael Fritschi, María Alfonsa Rosso, Críspulo Cabezas, Mariano Venancio, Héctor Colomé, Emilio Buale, Javier Laorden, Cristian Aquino, Carlos Zabala, Paco Obregón, Javier Botet.
2015 – 96 minutes
Rated: Rated R (for strong violence/gore, and language).
Reviewed by Dustin Putman for, December 30, 2014.
There has been talk of "[REC] 4" (also known as "[REC] 4: Apocalypse," though the subtitle is nowhere to be found in the film proper) being the final entry in the Spanish horror franchise that began with genuinely hair-raising found-footage combo "[REC]" and "[REC] 2." This latest sequel does not feel like a conclusive story, however, leading one to wonder if creators Jaume Balagueró and Paco Plaza might have a more finite finale up their sleeves in the near future. Balagueró, stepping back into the director's chair after sitting out of the third installment, 2012 broader, more comedic, Paco Plaza-helmed "[REC] 3: Genesis," has returned to the edgy, serious mood of the superior earlier films—if not to its technical style. The first-person camerawork is gone, replaced by more conventional filmic shooting methods, while the narrative's preference for action over horror emits an "Aliens" vibe. "[REC] 4" is missing out on the deep-throated scares of the first two pictures and mostly drops the more supernatural elements previously established, but it is difficult to deny its tautly riveting force.

Reprising her role from "[REC]" and "[REC] 2" as imperiled news reporter Ángela Vidal, Manuela Velasco is precisely the kick-ass heroine these films call for—one of the many missing links that left "[REC] 3: Genesis" such an empty experience. The sole survivor of a demonic viral outbreak within an apartment building in downtown Barcelona, Ángela wakes to find herself on an ocean liner where a precautionary, thought-controlled quarantine spearheaded by Dr. Ricarte (Héctor Colomé) is underway. Footage taken from her horrific experience suggests that she is carrying inside of her a worm-like parasite that could be the original strain the scientists need to create a retrovirus serum. Adamant that she is not the infected new host—why else do her tests keep coming back negative, she reasons—Ángela escapes from the clutches of the doctors and military personnel as a new outbreak originating from a set-loose monkey quickly spreads aboard the stormswept ship.

If "[REC] 4" chooses to focus on the spreading of the biological virus rather than the disease's more otherworldly characteristics, the film succeeds as a paranoid action-thriller. In a fight not only for survival, but to not turn into a raving, drooling, infected lunatic, Ángela is joined by a new group of characters: Army doctor Guzmán (Paco Manzanedo) and soldier Lucas (Críspulo Cabezas), who rescued Ángela from the tainted apartment building, and the elderly Anciana (María Alfonsa Rosso), a wedding guest in "[REC] 3: Genesis" who slept through the cataclysmic carnage. The setting is even more confined this time, taking place on a ship making its way across the choppy seas, but this claustrophobia adds to the breakneck tension. "[REC] 4" does not have the nightmare-inducing scares of the original two pictures and doesn't really forward the story very much—the door is left wide for another sequel—but this is still something of a return to form for a series that lost its way with the messy, haywire previous chapter. Hopefully a fifth film will provide the closure for which fans have been patiently waiting.
© 2015 by Dustin Putman
Dustin Putman

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