Paco Plaza (Valencia, 1973) is a regular at the Sitges festival, which he has attended for 32 years. So far he has made four films since he became known with El segundo nombre (2002). And yesterday he had the honor of inaugurating the 56th edition of the contest dedicated to fantasy and horror cinema with Hermana Muerte, a prequel to the successful Verónica (2017), based on the real case of a young woman who, at the beginning of the ninety, after playing the ouija board, he stated that an evil presence was harassing him. With a script written together with Jorge Guerricaechevarría and starring Aria Bedmar, Almudena Amor and Maru Valdivieso, Plaza is responsible for narrating the origins of one of the nuns who appeared in the film, Sister Muerte, who embodied Consuelo Trujillo and that with his white eyes he caused chills among the staff.

The action of his new work is set in post-war Spain, in an old convent converted into a school for girls with few resources where a young woman named Narcisa (Bedmar) is hired to be a teacher and has strange supernatural powers. It won’t take long for Narcisa to realize that a spirit is trying to get her attention, and at the same time she will have to discover the terrible secret hidden within the walls of the old convent. “We had the opportunity to reunite with a character we loved. In Verónica, our favorite character was H ermana Muerte, a blind nun who smokes compulsively and we somehow felt indebted to her. We had told very few things about her and she had a lot more to give us. After the repercussion of Verónica, Netflix became interested in making a film that had some kind of connection with that universe. With these two factors, someone who wanted to do it and someone who wanted to pay for it, everything went smoothly”, explains the director in a conversation with La Vanguardia.

The film was practically shot inside the Royal Monastery of Sant Jeroni de Cotalba, located in the municipality of Alfauir (Safor), with a very female cast. “Aside from great actresses, many like Maru or Almu are my best friends”. For the director of La abuela, sister Narcisa is “a girl who has a fantasy that resonates in an entire town and the people there follow her trend. In the film, in a moment of crisis, she begins to doubt whether or not what she says she saw is true or if it was just a girl’s fantasies. This is inspired by real statements made by one of the Garabandal girls who saw the Virgin in Cantabria. This woman said she didn’t know if it was something they made up when they were little, but there was a fuss about it… and it really hit me. The fact of thinking that a girl has been singled out all her life because she saw the Virgin when she was six or seven years old… I saw Baltasar one night, you know?”, he says with a laugh.

Plaza assures that the figure of the nun has always fascinated him since childhood. “They seem very sexy to me. They are women who close themselves in a mystery and voluntarily do not let you see who they are. They have a vocation for enigmas. And I think mystery always generates interest and suspense. We are all more interested in what we don’t know than what we do know.” The nuns in his new film, premiering on Netflix on October 27, wear the habit of white, a color that was “very important to mimic the nuns with the white walls”, and also highlights the importance of the light of the Mediterranean and its surroundings in a daytime terror. “I believe that the most tremendous things, contrary to what classical iconography suggests, happen in the light of day. And as a filmmaker it seemed like a challenge to try to make such a bright horror film”.

After shooting so many hair-raising stories, have you ever seen anything paranormal? “A lot of times. In the cell in front of where Narcisa was, there was a ghost that we all noticed and lived with and was one of the team. As Aria said, he was “very friendly”. We never noticed hostility, on the contrary. We felt that we had taken him out of boredom. We did a good job and he behaved very well.” In the face of new projects, Plaza will continue “with more terror. It’s what I like most as a spectator and what I enjoy shooting with the most”, he concludes.