One of this year's most notable film phenomena is the rush of first-person, camcorder-verité action movies currently hitting cinemas. Perhaps the most interesting of these, and the first to be made, is Spanish horror Rec, which was a sell-out success at this year's GFF Frightfest event. It's the story of a TV crew who spend one night in the company of their local fire brigade for what is intended to be a run of the mill feature piece. When they find themselves called out to a building where something very strange indeed is going on, things take a turn for the worse. Rec's directors, Paco Plaza and Jaume Balaguero, attended the festival to talk to fans about their work.
Frightfest's audience are fond of their gore, and the first question asked was what the film-makers had used for blood.
Paco Plaza: I'm not sure. It's not really blood, I know that. It was people from the effects team who made it.
So they used the blood of the guys who did the effects?
There as some laughter at this. They were then asked about the performances they got from their cast - what did they do to make it all so chillingly real?
PP: The actors didn't have the whole script and when we gave them the script it was not certain that this was what was going to happen. I told some of them that one thing would happen and I said other things to the other actors, so they never knew what was going to happen. We kept the end of the film top secret so the actors didn't know what was going to happen there either. The only clue they had was the way it smelled. It smelled really bad.
What influences are there in the film and what made them want to make it?
PP: Well, of course, there are a lot of movies using similar language to tell the story, for example Cannibal Holocaust. Other films before, as well. But for us the main influence was TV - live reports and cuts to relevant issues. It's very shocking for us because when we were finishing Rec we heard for the first time about all the other releases using a similar technique, like Cloverfield and Diary Of The Dead. It's very interesting how these films were released from different countries using a similar approach.
Jaume Balaguero: All of the movies we've seen and all of the moies we were brought up with are influences.
Though we don't want to give away too much of the plot here, as Rec is full of surprises, the directors wanted to make it clear that they tried to approach the film in a way which respected the traditions of the horror genre but which, at the same time, added something new. They're very positive about the importance of fresh ideas, so how do they feel about the American remake of their film, Quarantine, which is currently in the works?
PP: It's a bittersweet thing. In some ways we are flattered that someone thinks we had a good idea and they want to remake it, but on the other hand it's a really strange feeling having these people shooting exactly the same film we've made in a different language. We went on location - we went to Los Angeles for one day to see the shooting and we were really thrilled because when we arrived there it was exactly the same - it was the same actress with the same hair, the same outfit, and the same building, and it was very strange for us. It's really bizarre.
JB: They were asking us how to copy the movie. We were going to tell them it was all about the way it was shot - not the movie itself, but the method of shooting. We would have explained how we shot it, how we designed the production, so they could copy that in exactly the same way too. But they never asked how to copy it and then they just decided to copy each scene. I don't think that's the way to do a remake.
How long did it take them to shoot Rec?
JB: Twenty days. Four weeks, from Monday to Friday. It was very important for us to shoot chronologically, having the actors growing with the movie and realising things about the script as it developed.
The TV presenter in the film is a well known actress in Spain, but how did they go about choosing other cast members?
PP: It was very important to us to have an unknown cast, but with the presenter, we wanted her to be recognisable to the audience - not as an actress but as a media face from TV.
What about the actor who played the photographer, through whose eyes we see the story unfold?
PP: It's not an actor, it's our DOP, making his début as a performer. He's a cinematographer who has worked in the past on films we have shot. We went to dinner with him and said "Okay, we have this idea. We want to co-direct it, we want you to be the photographer," he said "Okay, I'm in, I'm in!" Then we said "You have to be an actor as well." and he said "Okay, okay." And we said "No, seriously! We want you to be there and we want you to be reacting to the other actors."
JB: Like the other actors, he never got the script, because we wanted him to share it in a very spontaneous way, reacting to events as they occurred.
And finally, since Rec has become one of the biggest hits of the year in Spain, can we expect a sequel?
PP: We don't know quite what's happening with it yet, but we have had a very interesting idea for a sequel. We want to think about it. You know, Aliens is to Alien what Rec II will be to Rec.