Greetings, all. Ambush Bug here with another AICN HORROR: ZOMBIES & SHARKS column. This time around, I chat with one half of the mad duo who brought you [REC] and [REC]2. Paco Plaza took full control of his newest installment in the series [REC]3: GENESIS while he will be serving as producer for his [REC] collaborator Juame Balaguero for [REC]4: APOCALYPSE. But today, he’s here to talk about [REC]3. Here’s the conversation we had about the film. Look further down for a review of the film.
AMBUSH BUG (BUG): Mr. Plaza, I just want to let you know that I am a huge fan of your work. Let’s start with the original [REC] film. Did you ever think that it would become the world-wide phenomenon that it has become? It was remade n America, everybody including myself consider it one of the best horror films to come around in a very long time, but looking back on that first film did you ever expect that it would be accepted so widely?
PACO PLAZA (PP): Well first of all thank you very much for your words. Of course we never expected something like that to happen. Where it all began was Jaume Balaguero and me having a coffee one afternoon in Barcelona and we were complaining about difficult it was to get our next respective films financed and we were lazy saying “It’s so difficult” and we said, “Wouldn’t it be great to do something like back when we were short filmmakers, just grab a camera, gather a few friends, and just make something?” “Yeah, that would be spectacular” and we looked at each other like “What’s stopping us? Let’s do it.” We began to think about a film we could shoot with a video camera and a few friends and that was where we became more and more obsessed with the idea of doing something, really really small, something we could control one hundred percent.
But while we were shooting it and even the first screenings we had, we didn’t really know even if it was going to be released at all theatrically. We talked sometimes about making an internet release or doing something like a special edition with a DVD. We didn’t know… It was the reaction of people that came to watch the film that really gave us the idea of “I think this is getting out of hand.” We got really excited, but even the whole process we never thought that it was going to be something that big.
BUG: And it really came around at the beginning of all of this found footage trend and just the kind of handheld first person point of view. I’m sure you saw THE BLAIR WITCH project when it first came out, was that influential in you making the film?
PP: Yes, THE BLAIR WITCH and especially CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST and it was an influence. There was another Belgium film and I don’t know the English name, but there were many films that had an influence on us, but even there was a chapter of the TV show THE X-FILES which was called “THE X-COPS” that was a mixture of Mulder and Scully that was like a reality show. It was really interesting, but it’s true that the main influence on us was the television and the language of reporting the news.
I’m not too familiar with American reality shows, but in Spain it’s very, very popular, this genre of having a journalist and a camera man travelling all around making interviews, because it’s he cheapest program you can imagine. We have a lot of them. It’s a very popular way of making television here in Spain for us I think that was the strongest influence more than any other film.
BUG: What I loved about the series in general is the unpredictability. You went from going from a story about an infection in the first one to more of a religious tone with demons and everything and it was very seamless and then going into the third film you kind of elaborated on that religious theme. When you were making the first film did you think that there were going to be… Were these religious themes in there? I guess they were very subtle in the apartment at the very end, but going into it did you have the mythology planned out for the three films?
PP: I wouldn’t say the whole mythology for the three films, because at that time we were only trying to make one and that was all for us, but we knew, because Jaume and I thought a lot about when you make a film with a classic theme, it doesn’t matter if it’s vampires or werewolves, or mummies, something that has been really squeezed in the past, you have to be faithful to that tradition, but at the same time you need something new and something fresh and so we went in that line of making… They were not really zombies or infected by some disease, they were possessed.
We loved mixing zombies and demons. We thought it was a fresh response and it was something we haven’t seen in the past and that was really exciting for us. We sort of succeeded in the first film, like saying about the possessed girl and… referring to this aspect of the church being involved in the creation of these zombies, but we didn’t have a whole mythology. We knew that we wanted to tell… went to a dog and then everything spread. But we didn’t have like a mythology, especially because when we were shooting REC we felt that was going to be it, a solo film.
BUG: Okay, so moving on to REC 3, you made a conscious decision to put down the hand held camera and shoot it as a real cinematic film. Was there pressure from studios or anything like that to keep it into the found footage genre a little bit longer in the film? Because that happens pretty early in the film.
PP: I knew I wanted to make this decision in the film, that I wanted to have a very long prolog. I think in the film it’s like eighteen minutes or something like that and I wanted a more cinematic filmmaking for many reasons. The first, this is something different. It’s different for me, but especially for the audience. I’m a filmgoer. I go to the theater three or four times a week. I love it. Something that happens to me is that more often I feel like I just went to the theater to check how the film is exactly how I expected, because of all of the anticipation and the trailers, the information you can read on the internet, it’s very difficult that a film surprises you and that’s what we wanted to have back, because I remember when I was a teenager there was very, very little information about the film and you really discovered the films in the theater while watching them and there’s something magical there, and that mystery of the film revealing itself on the screen was something that I was trying to achieve. That’s part of the weight of trying to make something very, very different.
At the same time I didn’t want to recreate REC from the beginning. I wanted to make a statement of “This is a REC film and it is shot in the way we have shot the previous film,” but we had like… When we say “these things have occurred in the other two films” we have to keep on recording “people have to know the truth…” I love having a character say “What are you saying? What about yourself?” and breaking the camera. It was like making a statement of “Okay, this is the end of it and now this is what is happening.”
BUG: Definitely. Did you find it easier or harder to make a cinematic film? It seems like setting up a found footage film where there are continuous shots and everything would involve a lot of preparation, especially in ones that are moving around and you are incorporating a lot of different actions at once in the same location. Was it easier for you to film it cinematically where you can do cuts and you can edit scenes and things like that?
PP: I wouldn’t say in terms of easy or difficult. It was just really different and the last time I had made this type of film it had been like six years ago. It was something I was really anticipating, because since my third film I don’t think I have used that type of… It’s a whole different way of working. It’s not easier or more difficult, it’s just very different and has nothing to do… I think the most complicated thing I have ever done with a camera was in REC. In the first REC it was like a circus filming that film with the choreography and the crew and the actors, that was really, really extreme, but in REC 3 I wouldn’t say one of the two different parts of the film was easier than the other.
BUG: Okay, so with REC 4 being made now, how involved are you in that? Are you involved as far as writing or producing? Or is it all completely on your writing partners?
PP: I was writing it with Manu, who was the writing partner on REC 2, and I’m going to be Creative Producer. So somehow I will be involved, but only if I’m… I’ll be around, but not that much.
BUG: Okay, so you and Jaume, are you guys going to come together for a fifth one, like wrapping the whole thing up from both of your perspectives? Or is it too early to tell from that?
PP: Yeah, it’s too early. Time will tell, you know. We have been collaborating together for the last ten years, so we will see what happens. I have an idea for having like a crazy REC 5, but I think we will have to take each step at its time and see what comes from REC 4. But the idea is that the fourth is the last one. That’s our idea.
BUG: Okay, so can you give us any hints about what we have to expect with REC 4?
PP: No. I don’t really want to get into trouble with Jaume. I don’t want to say too much. It’s better that when the time comes, he explains what he wants.
BUG: Understandable. So REC 3 does explore the story of husband and wife. It does explore themes of marriage and how precious marriage is and then the threat to marriage and the other two films seem to be exploring where the threat comes into your home and it’s attacking your home. Are these conscious decisions by you or is this just something that critics like myself just kind of read into these things? Do you consciously go in saying “I’m going to make a film about marriage.?”
PP: That’s really interesting. No, I think for me it’s like a comment on family and it’s a kind of subversive film with the institution of family, like being… For me it was very interesting to spoil someone’s happiest day of their life. It was like being a kid, like taking the happiest day of her life and spoiling it. I love that. (Laughs) I love these kind of social or political subjects in horror films, because I think that even if you don’t want to do it, you end up doing it, because you can’t help that your film in the end reflects how you see the world or how you are or how you think about different things, so I think all of those readings are worth a value.
BUG: Okay, well one other thing that I noticed about the series is just that it seems like it’s science versus religion where it’s less so in the first film, but in the second two films you have the government putting up a tent around this reception area and basically trying to contain this virus in a scientific way, but it’s something that’s much more powerful than that in religion. Are those themes something that interest you? It seems like it must, since it’s been pretty prominent in the last two films.
PP: I was raised Catholic and in Spain the religion has a big influence in our social daily lives and it’s a special institution and it’s something that Jaume and I talked a lot about. We have been to France with all of the films and in France they really find it a bizarre topic, the religious. For us it’s more natural. It’s something that has been in Spanish society for centuries. It’s really routed in our culture, but I guess it’s something in making this we became like superheroes… I think there’s something that’s really particular of this film.
BUG: I really love the whole arc that you guys did in the story and the way it ended was very dark, but it was also very sweet and very romantic and surprised me at how effected I was with that, how much you become invested in these two characters. One other question, I know we are getting right towards the 20 minute mark, but as far as where… What are your plans for the future after this film? Do you have other things going on?
PP: Yeah, I have some things in the air, but nothing confirmed. It hasn’t been too long since the release and I’m still trying to make up my mind in other projects about what I’m doing next.
BUG: Do you consider yourself a horror director or is that pigeonholing you too much?
PP: Well I love horror and it’s what I have done in the past and I think that’s what I want to be in my life. I would love to be a horror film director. I think I would be proud of that when I’m seventy or seventy-five years old and I look back and see that I have done a bunch of horror films. This is exactly what I want to do, but at the same time more and more I’m more keen on comedy and I wouldn’t say I wouldn’t write or direct a comedy, but there’s something with horror that is so fun to shoot with all of the fake blood and the effects. It’s having so much fun, like being a kid at the playground at school again. I don’t know if I will stop doing it, because I really love it.
BUG: You say you’re an avid filmgoer, are there any horror films that have come out recently that have impressed you or have really scared you.
PP: In general with horror films… The last film that really impressed me was SHAME by Steve McQueen. I’m crazy about that and when I walked out of the theater I bought… I don’t know if you have seen it.
BUG: I don’t think I’ve seen that one.
PP: It’s amazing. It’s a masterpiece. So I guess HUNGER, but Steve McQueen is the last movie that really shocked me. It hasn’t come out yet, but I watched THE IMPOSSIBLE by Juan Antonio Bayona, the director of THE ORPHANAGE, and it’s an amazing film. It really moved me and made me feel something. It’s amazing.
BUG: I have not seen it yet no, but I definitely will seek it out. I’m a big fan of THE ORPHANAGE, so I definitely have to see that one.
PP: It’s incredible.
BUG: Well thank you so much for taking the time out today to talk with me. And congrats on the great film with REC 3.
PP: Thank you very much.
BUG: [REC]3: GENESIS is available On Demand now and in theaters September 7th! Here’s my review for the film below!
Available now on Video On Demand and in theaters September 3!
[REC]3: GENESISDirected by Paco Plaza
Written by Paco Plaza, Luiso Berdejo, David Gallart
Starring Leticia Dolera, Diego Martin, Javier Botet, Alex Monner, Ismael Martinez, Claire Baschet, Mireia Ros, Ana Isabel Velásquez, Borja Glez. Santaolalla, Carla Nieto
Find out more about this film here!
Retro-reviewed by Ambush Bug
Though much ballyhoo is heaped on THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT as the one that made found footage the popular trend in horror that we have today, I have to disagree and say that, while there were some found footage films after BWP, it wasn’t until PARANORMAL ACTIVITY and internationally [REC] came along before people realized the potential fright factor those types of films possess. I remember the first time I saw [REC] and how blown away I was from it. Now, there are those who hate QUARANTINE, but for it being the shot for shot remake that it is, I have to admit my fondness for that film as well, mainly because Dexter’s freaky sister always creeps me out.
Though [REC]2 evolved naturally from the first film, it was, by and large, its own film; pushing the mythos forward and delving into the religious matters that might be behind this plague. As Plaza and his creative partner Juame Balaguero split for parts 3 and 4, the two seem to have decided to evolve the series even further. Having seen [REC]3 twice now, I understand those who criticize the film, but still feel it is something far superior than mostly all of the zombie/plague/possession films out there today.
Dropping the hand held, found footage motif fifteen minutes in seems to be a conscious statement by the director that we are moving past the allure of making the same film all over again for the third time and want to do something different in the same universe, using the same rules, and telling a much broader story. [REC]3 GENESIS does this by doing what the previous two [REC] films did so well—that is, taking expectations of something we take for granted (in [REC] it was the reality television show, in [REC]2 one could argue it was the COPS based reality show or even our fascination with on the spot war news as it followed the response team around the same building through the soldier’s eyes) and tossing them on its ear. In [REC]3 GENESIS, Plaza takes another standard, the wedding and twists it into a nightmare.
By doing this, I feel Plaza has made the most thematically strongest entry in the series to date. Every cliché is met in the first few minutes from the creepy uncle who drinks too much to the fat aunt who likes to pinch cheeks to the chicken dance. In showing this is your typical wedding, Plaza draws the audience in and helps them get comfortable before sinking its teeth in. These establishing scenes as seen through the intimate hand held lens of the camera in the first minutes solidify the audience’s investment and the film relies on that for the rest of the film.
Though it was made evident in [REC]2, I fully understood that this isn’t a zombie film, but a film about what would happened if Regan from THE EXORCIST were not tied to the bed and what if there were fifty Regans running around passing on the possession through bites and scratches. The religious themes continue to permeate as playing readings from the bible send the possessed into a trance and other holy standards are used to combat this demonic threat. The simple fact that so much of the typical wedding is based on religious themes and tradition makes it the perfect place for Plaza to utilize his demonic plague to the fullest.
Carrying out these themes are the loving newlywed couple who are separated for most of the film Leticia Dolera and Diego Martin. Martin does a decent job as the committed husband who won’t give up until he finds his new bride, though I was distracted as to how much Martin looks like a Spainish Jason Segal. Leticia Dolera is fantastic and is able to suck you in as the adorable bride, then shock you at the ultra-violence she is willing to enflict on her special day. The scenes of the bride going apeshit with a chainsaw could have been campy, but the wide-eyed frantic nature of her performance is reminiscent of Marilyn Burns performance in TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE.
[REC]3 GENESIS works best when it is subtle. From the beginning, having seen the previous two films, there are signs that things are slowly going wrong. From the coughing uncle to the hazmat team in the background of some scenes; if you’ve seen [REC] & [REC]2, you know where this is going and the patience Plaza takes to get there really works well on our expectations. Once shit does fly, it does so at a frantic pace. While I can see the point of some folks that without the hand held found footage motif, this cinematic approach is nothing more than one of the millions of zombie films available today, but the way Plaza handles the key scenes of this film—be they the wedding setup or the truly moving ending of this film, [REC]3 GENESIS proves that, though this may be a found footage/zombie mash-up film, it is definitely is the best of its kind.
[REC]3 GENESIS is in theaters now and available On Demand! See it! It’s good.
See ya next week, folks!
Ambush Bug is Mark L. Miller, original @$$Hole/wordslinger/reviewer/co-editor of AICN Comics for over ten years. He has written comics such as MUSCLES & FIGHTS, MUSCLES & FRIGHTS, VINCENT PRICE PRESENTS TINGLERS & WITCHFINDER GENERAL, THE DEATHSPORT GAMES, WONDERLAND ANNUAL 2010 & NANNY & HANK (soon to be made into a feature film from Uptown 6 Films). He is also a regular writer for FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND & has co-written their first ever comic book LUNA: ORDER OF THE WEREWOLF (to be released in late 2012 as an 100-pg original graphic novel). Mark has just announced his new comic book miniseries GRIMM FAIRY TALES PRESENTS THE JUNGLE BOOK from Zenescope Entertainment to be released March-August 2012. Also look for Mark's exciting arc on GRIMM FAIRY TALES #76-80 which begins in August 2012.
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