One of the most popular found-footage franchises is the Spanish [REC] series. The third film in the series is just making its Stateside debut. The action moves from claustrophobic apartments to a bright, beautiful wedding. What is more romantic than zombies at a wedding? We spoke with writer/director Paco Plaza about choosing a more “uplifting” backdrop, as well as the decision to largely forgo the found footage format that made [REC] a hit.
[REC] 3 is almost as much a love story as a zombie story. What came with the decision to change the tone so much from the other two films?
It’s not something you anticipate or decide exactly will happen. I think I’m a pretty romantic person, and I really wanted to introduce different elements. What Luiso Berdejo [screenwriter] and I had didn’t want to do was write the same film over. We wanted something different, and we wanted to deliver a surprise for the audience. Having the setting of the wedding demands you have different elements. There is more humor, and the romance came while writing the script. We really want this couple to survive. We wanted Clara to be the hero, with her costume and her chainsaw - it’s like the perfect compliment to any modern woman. We wanted her to be a strong character. I think what happened is that we fell in love with her while writing the script. That is what ended up bringing the romance element to the script. It wasn’t something we wanted to; it was something that happened in the process.
Where does [REC] 3 fall in the [REC] timeline?
It’s a prequel if you consider it starts before the other two films take place. The time frame for the three films and the upcoming forth is just a couple of days. [REC] 3 begins before the first one, but when night falls, the timelines begin to coexist.
Why did you decide to abandon the found footage style a half-hour into this film, in favor of a traditional camera narrative?
I don’t think it was a decision like “We don’t want to do this again.” Each story has to find its own way to be told, and we felt this was it for this romantic fable. At the same time, I think one of the most important things for a filmgoer is to be surprised, to get something new and unexpected. On every level of [REC] 3 we wanted to deliver that because we didn’t want to follow the same path we have been on for the last two films. Us as filmmakers and the audience didn’t want to see [REC] or [REC 2] again; they wanted to have a new experience. I think it is about taking risks and being honest with what you want to make. I didn’t want to make a statement that “found footage was over.” It wasn’t like that.
Are there any “easter eggs” in the third film that fans of the first two will want to look for?
There are many links. Not only the bites from the dog in the first one, but there are news reports from the first two films playing in the third.
At the time we released the third film in Spain, we released a graphic novel with five different stories. It was very interested for us to expand the world of [REC] beyond the screen. There are lots of scenes that we haven’t had a chance to develop for the films, like what happened with the kids from [REC] 2? Those were the stories that we didn’t have time to do in the films.
Where will the [REC] series go with the fourth film?
I don’t really have any information I can share. I don’t want to spoil it.
Will the fourth film truly be the last of the [REC] films?
That is our intention. We never say nay, but our intention is that the fourth one closes the franchise for good.
Will we get more details about what this virus is and where it began, or will you leave a little mystery there?
There will be answers.
Did you always plan for [REC] to be a series, or did that just evolve out of the film’s popularity?
It was supposed to only be one film. We never planned to do a series. In the beginning it was just a tiny little film some friends made with video cameras. It was something we did for fun and our only goal was to make the best film possible. It was only after the success of the first one that a lot of people started thinking about a sequel, and telling us we should think about it. It happened very naturally.
[REC] was kind of at the fore of the found-footage subgenre. Do you think it has run its course?
No, not at all. I liked the experience of watching Paranormal Activity. I thought it was a great example of found footage, and how to use it wisely. It is only natural that if a film succeeds there are more films like that. I think that, as long as it fits the story, and you enjoy the ride, every style is valid.