Spain has given us some memorable horror movies. In just the last few years, Veronica, The Platform, La Llorona and Tigers Are Not Afraid how impressed critics and audiences alike. Legendary director Guillermo del Toro is responsible for genre classics Cronos, The Devil’s Backbone, and Pan’s Labyrinth. As the found-footage subgenre was gaining traction, Spanish horror movie [REC] helped prove the shaky cam format wasn’t just a gimmick. Directors Jaume Balaguero and Paco Plaza’s mixing of zombie and supernatural elements was good enough to warrant three sequels and an American remake. Where does each movie in the [REC] franchise rank? And we’re not counting, the remake, Quarantine, though it’s quite good as well.
4 – [REC]3 Genesis (2012)
If [REC]3: Genesis wasn’t a [REC] movie it likely would have gone over better with horror fans. In spite of its bottom ranking here, this ‘sort of’ sequel is actually a lot of fun. Unfortunately, [REC]3: Genesis is the third movie in a franchise with an established mythology and tone. Setting its action at a large wedding reception, Genesis’ story unfolds parallel to the first two movies, with only a tangential connection. Instead, the sequel follows newlyweds separated during a viral zombie outbreak. In addition to shifting locations, [REC]3: Genesis abandons the found-footage approach about 15 minutes into the movie. However, the sequel’s biggest mistake is its inexplicable decision to switch up the franchise’s intense and frenetic tone for laughs. But if you watch it as a standalone movie with no connection to the [REC] franchise, Genesis has manic energy and its central couple are compelling protagonists.
3. [REC]4: Apocalypse (2014)
Technically, [REC]4: Apocalypse is a better [REC] movie than Genesis. Though it completely abandons the franchise’s found-footage roots, [REC]4: Apocalypse brings back one of the original directors, Jaume Balaguero, alongside Manuella Velasco’s ‘Angela Vidal’. As such, it feels like a proper sequel. Moreover, the movie’s setting on a quarantined ship in the ocean almost recaptures the series’ claustrophobic tension. Still this final entry feels like it ends things on a whimper rather than a bang. Even as Bealaguero picks things up immediately following [REC]2’s ending, this sequel still feels tonally disconnected. Nothing here approaches the intensity level of [REC]. Fortunately, Apocalypse still has some shocks and wild gore.
2 – [REC]2 (2009)
As far as sequels go, [REC]2 comes close to re-capturing the original movie’s frightening magic. For a a good 40 minutes or so, Balaguero and Plaza maintain the same level of near-constant tension that defined [REC]. In fact, the only thing going against [REC]2 is the lack of surprise and shock value going into the sequel. This time audiences know what to expect. Unfortunately, [REC]2 loses some momentum when it introduces a group of errant teens to the mix. Aside from upping the sequel’s body count, the characters bring nothing to the story. And as hard as Balaguero and Plaza try, they can’t replicate the pure scare of [REC]’s ending. Yet in spite of these limitations, [REC]2 is a near damn perfect sequel.
1 – [REC] (2007)
There’s a reason [REC] spawned three sequels. Not only is [REC] one of the best examples of the found-footage subgenre, it’s one of the best horror movies this century. After a bit of buildup to introduce its main characters, [REC] hits the accelerator and rarely lets up. Yes, found-footage means some shaky cam. But Balaguero and Plaza use the approach masterfully to maintain a constant mix of tension and shocks. If [REC] feels like just another zombie movie, Balaguero flips the script by introducing the series’ religious elements. Its mixing of demonic possession with zombie tropes gives the movie just enough to set it apart. Once [REC] gets us into the apartment building’s penthouse, it’s an absolute nail-biter. And [REC]’s final shot is one of the best in horror.