Thankfully, that’s where comparisons end. [REC] 3 shares little in common with Alien 3, besides the obligatory drop in quality. In fact, some might argue it’s the polar opposite. Alien 3 took us into darker territory, whereas Genesis – a film that runs parallel to the original movie in the series – drowns itself in colour (mostly red), joviality and the occasional chainsaw massacre. [REC] 3 might not compare to the films that preceded it but it’s still a rollicking horror comedy. Anticipation for Apocalypse isn't what it once was but is that really such a bad thing?
Jaume Balagueró takes the wheel on part four, giving Paco Plaza the day off and steering their ship out of troubled waters. It's not all plain sailing of course, but [REC] 4 is certainly more satisfying than Plaza's rom-zom-com. The hit-and-miss humour is dropped for a start, with the exception of a familiar wedding guest who wakes up at the wrong party. It's a tidy connection to the previous entry though, and as it turns out, most of the ship's residences have more in common than they first thought.
Reporter Angela Vidal (Manuela Velasco) makes a welcome return too, giving Apocalypse a much needed boost from the start. The last time we saw her she was being infected by a deadly parasite, but in Apocalypse she wakes up in a mysterious quarantine facility on an isolated oil tanker in the middle of the ocean. The hyper-secure tanker, full of scientists and soldiers, seems safe from the zombie-like infection that has ravaged the land. Unfortunately, somebody has let the monkey out of the cage, and a whole new nightmare has been set in motion.
The found footage formula - synonymous with the [REC] franchise - is dropped altogether this time around, and any religious subtext hinted at in earlier instalments is replaced by conventional theories. That's not necessarily a bad thing, and we're still no closer to finding out where the virus originated, but at least the issues are addressed in part four. Because Genesis ran alongside the original movie in the series it felt like a step back in terms of development, but with Apocalypse, Balagueró brings the origin of the outbreak back into focus. In truth, he doesn't really provide many answers either but at least he goes with science, and hey, there's always the possibility of part five, right?
The worst thing about [REC] 4 is the title, which is almost as misleading as part three's Genesis. If you're expecting a battle to end all battles you've boarded the wrong ship. Balagueró is clearly more comfortable keeping his horror contained, and Apocalypse delivers its scares in much the same way as its predecessors; all dimly lit corridors, tight spaces and raging hordes of neck biters. Disposing of the shaky-cam doesn't hurt the franchise one bit, and free from the ties that bind, Balagueró is able to create some memorable set-pieces - the escaped monkeys are a particular highlight.
The set up is intriguing and the characters are worth rooting for, even if Angela isn't given a lot to do until the final act. She does, however, get her hands on a chainsaw of sorts, which is always nice to see in a horror movie. With creative effects, a thumping score and relentless pacing, Apocalypse does deliver the zombie-like action we've all been craving. Unfortunately, it still doesn't wrap up the story in a satisfying manner. Whether or not we'll get the apocalypse we deserve in part five remains to be seen, but for now [REC] 4 will have to do.
If you're still craving zombie-like action then you're in for a treat; Apocalypse is a return to form for the [REC] franchise after the lightweight third chapter. Fans of the series may have expected more after part two, but leave your expectations at the door and enjoy the ride. Who knows, maybe the series will still get the killer ending it deserves.