Television reporter Ángela is rescued from the building where the virus first took hold, and taken to an oil tanker to be examined. However, it is unknown to the soldiers on the ship that she possibly carries the seed of the mysterious demonic virus.
It was seven years ago when [REC] (2007) snuck up on unsuspecting audiences around the world and scared the crap out of them. Two years later [REC] 2 (2009) managed to do the near impossible and turned out to be even better than its predecessor (I consider it The Godfather Part 2 (1974) of horror films). The co-directors of those two films, Jaume Balaguero & Paco Plaza, split after the 2nd [REC] film to branch out a bit on their own. Plaza stayed the course and directed the barely tolerable [REC 3]: Genesis (2012), while Balaguero directed the mildly suspenseful Sleep Tight (2011). The duo had stated that the idea to split up the final two chapters of the [REC] franchise was the plan all along, and Balaguero has directed the final (?) chapter, entitled [REC 4}: Apocalypse. It features actors from all 3 of the previous films, and (just like [REC 3]) – it takes the action out of the apartment building, and into a new and forboding environment.
[REC] 4 begins shortly after the events in [REC]2, with a group of SWAT officers setting up explosives in the apartment building where the outbreak first occurred. As the officers are setting up the charges, they encounter reporter Angela Vidal (Manuela Velasco), and get her out of the building before it explodes. The film suddenly shifts location to an ocean freighter where Angela awakens from a drug induced slumber.
The ship is under quarantine, and has a small army of soldiers making sure it stays that way. We’re never told exactly how she got there, and she has no idea as to why she’s there either. As she begins to investigate the circumstances surrounding her new locale, she discovers that she’s part of an experiment that hopes to discover a cure for the virus that caused all the trouble in the previous films. There’s a group of scientists on board who are working to find this cure, but all that really means is that someone (or something…) carrying the virus is on board the ship as well. She soon encounters assorted crew members (and a few characters from the previous films), and eventually they all have to band together to try to escape the ship when the shit hits the fan.
The shit I’m talking about is supposed to be a surprise, but it feels like it was lifted part and parcel from 28 Days Later (2002), and that’s probably the scariest thing in this movie. There’s absolutely nothing here that makes [REC] 4 special or unique at all. What little plot there is feels like it was cribbed from a dozen other films. Admittedly, it’s good to see Ms. Velasco back to help close things out, but she isn’t given very much to do here, besides run and scream (a lot). The actors surrounding her acquit themselves nicely, which is an achievement considering how thin the script (by Balaguero & Manu Diez) turned out to be. The action here is pretty standard fare and not particularly exciting to begin with – you’ve seen it all before. And making matters even worse, there are no scares to be found here whatsoever. The gore quotient is also shockingly low, I would think that with this being the final chapter, all involved would’ve liked to give fans of the franchise some kick ass gore sequences. What little gore we get here is pretty standard and very dull to boot.
Let’s just get this out of the way now: [REC] 4: Apocalypse is a massive disappointment. While it isn’t as bad as [REC] 3: Genesis, it’s pretty damned close. I was hoping for a return to form for the franchise after the third film, but my hope was nothing but a memory after this film was over. It feels like a throwaway film more than anything else, like an obligation that had to be fulfilled. There’s no real innovation in its barely there plot, nothing that makes it stand out at all. The only reason why I think it’s marginally better than the previous film is because it eschews the splatsticky esthetic that was so prevalent in it. But in all honesty, that isn’t meant to be an endorsement of any kind. The film makers seem to be content to check off the standard tropes expected of the franchise in a methodical manner as the film slowly drags to its end, but it doesn’t even do that very well. Words cannot describe how let down I felt when it was all over. And to make matters even worse, rather than put a bullet to its head and allow the [REC] franchise to die, the film makers add a ridiculous coda to this that could conceivably be the basis for a fifth film.
For the record, it’s a stupid idea and I’m near positive that everyone who sees it is gonna hate it – it’s that moronic. It all feels like Balaguero just wanted to get this out of the way and move on to bigger/better projects. I have no problem with him not wanting to make this film, but if so, why not let someone who really wanted to make this special have a crack at it?
If you’re a fan of the [REC] franchise, you’re gonna be sorely disappointed with this flick. It’s a cookie cutter, by the books film made by people who just didn’t care. And by the way, it’s the least apocalyptic film with the word “Apocalypse” in the title ever made.
2015 is barely a week old, and I already have 2 films that could be on my “Worst Of” list for the year (The Woman In Black 2: Angel Of Death is the other) – how sad is that?
[REC] 4: Apocalypse – 1 out of 5 shrouds.