Fed up with watching found footage horror movies? Imagine how their makers must feel. “I hadn’t used a tripod for five years!” laughs writer-director Paco Plaza, over the phone from Barcelona. The Spaniard is talking about the period he and co-director Jaume Balaguero spent making the first two films in the [REC] franchise — 2007’s [REC] and 2009’s [REC] 2. The pair of films detailed one truly terrible night in the life of a Barcelona apartment block as first its inhabitants and then their rescuers attempt to avoid being infected by a zombie virus. The original [REC] itself helped infect the horror genre with the found footage bug through its 2008 U.S. remake, Quarantine, and has now spawned another sequel, Plaza’s solo-directed [REC] 3: Genesis, which is currently available on VOD and hits cinemas Sept. 7.
Set at the wedding party of Clara (Leticia Dolera) and Koldo (Diego Martin) the result is every bit as gore-drenched as its predecessors. But after a lengthy pre-credit sequence, it abandons the found footage format for a more visually composed, and romantic, tone. Not that Plaza himself has grown bored with watching the shaky-cam subgenre he helped popularize. “The last one I saw was Paranormal Activity 3,” says the director. “I simply loved that film. I thought it was really, really scary. I don’t think found footage is over. As long as you have a strong story that requires to be told that’s way, it’s okay.”
Below, Plaza talks about [Rec] 3, the in-the-works fourth movie in the series, and his mixed feelings about weddings.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: The newlyweds in your movie, Clara and Koldo, spend much of the film desperately trying to reunite after being split up by the zombie mayhem. It’s actually a very romantic movie.
PACO PLAZA: Yeah, it is. It’s really romantic. People laugh when I say that, but it’s true.
I enjoyed the first two [REC] films but you wouldn’t really describe them as love stories.
No, not at all. [Laughs]
Why do you hate weddings so much?
I don’t! In fact, I was watching today Prizzi’s Honor — John Huston’s film — and it begins with a wedding as well. I love weddings, especially in film. In real life, I have my issues with weddings. But I think, in terms of story telling, it gives you an amazing arena to develop a story. You have people dressed in a funny way and a lot of people who don’t really want to be there but they have to go there. That’s something that has always shocked me about weddings, that you feel half of the people don’t really want to be there but it’s some social thing they have to accomplish. And you have lots of relationships. You have people who like each other, people who love each other, people who hate each other. It’s a perfect place to develop something dramatic.
Why did you decide to change gears this time around?
It wasn’t specifically that we wanted to tell a love story. But we wanted to deliver something different. We didn’t want to shoot the same film again. I don’t know if this happens to you but, more and more often, I feel like I’m going to the theater only to check that films are exactly what I expect.
Surprise and mystery is for me something that’s very valuable. So we wanted to make something different and unexpected and surprising. People who have enjoyed the [REC] films loved that the films were something different, something fresh and not the usual stuff. We felt we risked becoming a formula. It was time to move forward.
I understand Sam Raimi’s third Evil Dead movie, Army of Darkness, was an inspiration in terms of how a franchise can be changed so drastically.
Absolutely, absolutely. I have a very strong memory of when I watched Sam Raimi’s film, when it was released in the theater. It literally blew my mind. It was something that I wasn’t ready for. I went to the theater to see a horror film. I had seen Evil Dead so I expected something more in that line. The film really amazed me and made me feel like I have been given a gift. It was way more than what I expected and very different.
I love Army of Darkness now but I remember being confused and maybe a little disappointed when the film first came out because it was so different. What kind of reactions have you had from fans of the [REC] franchise to [REC] 3?
We have had mixed emotions with the film, especially in Mexico where the film is really popular and they are more passionate. A lot of people love the film and understand what we tried to do. But some people said, “I like the film but it wasn’t what I expected,” like that was a bad thing. But for me, I take that as a compliment. I’m really satisfied with both reactions.
A lot of [REC] 3 is quite beautiful. It must have been nice to be in a position where you could compose shots, given the first two films look, deliberately, like crap.
Yeah. When we were shooting [REC] 2, which is a really really dark film, we barely used light. And this time with Pablo Rosso, who was the director of photography of all three films, we said that we wanted to have a very light film. Especially when we went outdoors in nighttime we wanted to achieve something of the flavor that John Carpenter’s films have. You are out in the dark, but you can see really comfortably, you can see all around you. We wanted to have that kind of night light. It is fake, but it is really beautiful in terms of cinema.
You cast a couple of quite old actors in [REC] 3. What did they think about being in a film which is so bloody?
They had a lot of fun, you know. I think the actors who really enjoy [being in horror movies] are those who are older or who are younger. Kids really love horror films and they have a lot of fun but the old actors, especially if they have been all their lives doing serious performances, they love to have the chance to break wild and do something that they are not supposed to.
Quarantine was extremely similar to [REC] except they removed all of the religious plot elements. What did you think of that? Do you think they lost something by doing that?
I’m not sure. The only thing with the remake is, I’m really happy they made it because it helped [REC] to become more popular than it was. It moved a spotlight onto our film. You know, the fact that it was going to be remade in Hollywood, it was big news in Europe. Everyone knew that it existed, this tiny Spanish film. I wasn’t involved at all in the creative process of Quarantine but if they decided to change the religious aspect, I guess they had their reasons.
Your [REC] and [REC] 2 co-director Jaume Balagueró is developing a fourth [REC] film, [REC]: Apocalypse. How involved are you in that?
I’m not really involved in that project this far. I will be. But now, Jaume is finishing the script. I know what I have read on the Internet!
You only know what you’ve read on the Internet?
I have some information but I don’t really want to spoil it. I don’t want to get in trouble. [Laughs]
You’ve also been linked to another project, an anthology movie called Paris, I’ll Kill You. What can you tell us about that?
No, I won’t be [involved] in that film. I’ve been attached to it for a couple of years but now I’m not. It’s been a very long process and now it’s different.
Do you know if it’s happening at all?
I hope so, because the project is great. I hope they can do it but I don’t have a lot of information.
What is next for you?
I’m not 100 percent sure. I have something that is floating in the air but I don’t want to spoil it. I hope it happens and if it does, you’ll know very soon.
You can check out the trailer for [REC] 3: Genesis below.