Paco Plaza helped usher in the modern age of found footage horror movies with 2007's Rec, which he co-directed with Jaume Balaguero. The film was a claustrophobic thriller about a news crew and the residents of an apartment complex suddenly overrun by a zombie-like infection. The film was so successful that it was remade only a year later as the American Quarantine, and spawned not one but two sequels. Rec 3: Genesis premieres August 3 in Video on Demand in advance of a limited theatrical run on September 7, and at first it seems like yet another entry in the found footage genre. SPOILER WARNING AHOY, because Plaza, directing solo this time around, pulls a wonderful switcheroo early on and begins directing the film in a new way entirely.
Paco Plaza joined me over the phone to talk about the radical shift in style, the found footage genre he's a proud part of and the Rec franchise's new horror-comedy tone.
CraveOnline: I was a little tired of the found footage genre, and then I was watching your film and I got swept up again… and then you just literally threw it to the ground.
Paco Plaza: [Laughs] That was part of the idea. It’s not that we wanted to make a statement on it, because I think we’re having wonderful examples of that. I enjoyed, a lot, Paranormal Activity 3 or The Last Exorcist. For me they are magnificent, very, very good films. I think that the main thing about going to the movies is to discover something, to unveil a mystery, and I feel – and I don’t know if this happens to you, but it happens to me very, very often – it’s like I just go the theater and the film is exactly what I expected. What we wanted with Rec 3 was to surprise the audience, and deliver something different and unexpected, and something that is not doing the same film all over again. I think it wasn’t really exciting for us as filmmakers, but mainly it wasn’t really exciting for the audience, because if they want to watch the same film they can just grab the Rec DVD and watch it.
Were you worried that people who were really dedicated to the Rec series might feel betrayed by the chance in tone and style?
No, not at all. I think when you make a film, you have to be really honest with what you want to do and really faithful to try to give the best film you can. And that’s what we did, so we’re not worried about anything.
I loved the moment when the changeover occurred, when the groom says, “Why are you filming?!” And the guy says, “We have to record this!” I was actually rolling my eyes at the moment, because that’s the only excuse anyone ever gives. Did you just run out of excuses?
It’s funny because we had, in Rec 2, we had started saying that, all the time. “We have to keep recording.” We could not not be recording. What we liked about this in Rec 3, we loved that the film itself [is] breaking, and rebelling [against] convention. We love that it’s not something that comes from the outside, but from the film. We have an inside man in the plot. For us it was one of things of the film, having someone for ourselves.
I love the movie that it turned into after that. It reminded me of the horror comedies that used to focus on the horror, like Re-Animator or Dead Alive. Did you have any particular films in mind when you started the film proper, after the opening sequence?
The main reference for me, when it came to writing the film, was Army of Darkness, the Sam Raimi film. That for me is like the perfect threequel. I remember the feeling of going to the theater to watch that film, and it literally blew my mind. It was something I wasn’t ready for. It was something, for me, “This is a sequel to Evil Dead? What is this?” I loved it, and that was our main inspiration.
One thing that I liked in this movie, that Army of Darkness did well too, was that I really, really liked the heroes in Rec 3. Which is something a lot of horror movies don’t do. A lot of horror movies make their characters deeply flawed, like they deserve to die immediately from the audience’s perspective.
That’s great. I think we took a lot of care in, and we kind of fell in love with them, especially [Clara], while writing the script. We really wanted them to make it, but in the end it wasn’t possible. [Laughs]
It’s still a horror movie.
It’s true. For us, it was very important that you can really say you know them while you are viewing the film. It’s like they are not just prototypes. You know who they are and you really like them, like normal people but they love each other so much that you really want them to succeed.
It seems really common in the found footage genre, where the films seem to be full of people who are mean to each other or passive-aggressive. Have you noticed this or is it just me?
Hell no. I think people are just mean in real life in general. I think if found footage tends to try to be realistic, I think that’s why, because they portray people in a more realistic way.
Fair enough. Are you still going to do another Rec film? I believe it’s called Rec: Apocalypse?
No, that one [I’m not going to] direct, the fourth one. I will be involved in it as a creative producer, but I’m not 100% there.
Do you know where this franchise goes from here? Is it going to stay outside of found footage or continue in traditional filmmaking?
It’s going to be traditional filmmaking, that’s for sure. I can’t really spoil, I can’t really say to much, otherwise my friends will be really angry with me.
What are you working on outside the genre. Everyone in America knows you from the Rec movies.
I’m writing a couple of things, but there is nothing really on wheels. I like to be cautious about. I don’t want to say too much about it.
Some people like to brag. I wanted to give you the opportunity.
Thank you very much. I’ve seen too much information right now about everything. You hear about films years before they are made and I think that’s kind of scary.