Have you ever been too afraid to sleep because you swore you heard footsteps in the hallway? Did you ever think there was something unseen lurking in your closet?
Well, if you haven’t experienced something like that first-hand, you can in the new film “Paranormal Activity.” The film centers on a couple, Micah and Katie, who use a camera to try to capture video evidence of an unseen demon in their home. The film was shot in just one week during 2007 and won an award at Screamfest. If you haven’t seen the trailer, just know this film has been terrifying audiences throughout the country. The movie will be making a very limited release this week in 13 cities, one of which will be Madison. The Badger Herald was lucky enough to sit in on a conference call with the writer and director of the film, Oren Peli.
Peli first explained the inspiration and background of “Paranormal Activity,” which originated from his love of horror movies.
“The expression specifically for the movie was, first of all, I’ve always been a fan of horror movies, but the kind of horror movies that play more on your psychology rather than the gore,” Peli said. “And the movies like ‘Blair Witch Project’ and ‘The Others’ show that you can make a movie that will be very scary and creepy even without having to rely on over-the-top special effects.”
Peli said the other part of it was experiencing strange noises in his own home.
“What ended up happening is that when I moved to my house, the first house that I owned, we started hearing all sorts of like weird noises during the night,” Peli said. “I’m not saying specifically I think there was a ghost in the house, but just the fact that there were strange things happening and I couldn’t explain them logically kind of got me thinking, ‘What if I had a video camera and let it run and then if something happened here in the house? Maybe I can capture it.'”
When asked what makes this film different from “The Blair Witch Project” or “Cloverfield,” Peli said it is the realism that makes the film stand out.
He also said it comes down to the fact that it has to hit close to home for the audience.
“The other thing that I think a lot of people respond to is the fact that this is all about what happens at home, in your own bed at night while you’re asleep and most vulnerable,” Peli said. “You have like all these movies like after ‘Blair Witch,’ people were saying, ‘Well, I’m never going to go camping in the woods again,’ or after ‘Jaws,’ people said, ‘I’m never going to go swim in the ocean again.’ But you can never avoid being asleep at your own home.”
The marketing strategy for this film, especially in the trailer, shows the terrified reactions of the audience. When asked about this strategy, Peli explained it isn’t just general audiences being frightened.
“There’s a story that I heard that Steven Spielberg was actually, when he watched the movie, he watched it at night so he got kind of scared by the movie and he stopped it and he continued watching it the next day during daylight,” Peli said. “So I guess the movie did really affect him and apparently he believes in this kind of stuff and loves the genre.”
Since Peli has always been a fan of horror movies, he was asked about his favorite horror films and what is scary to him.
“The movie that messed me up more than any other movie was when I watched ‘The Exorcist’ as a kid, and that’s actually an example of a movie that does have a lot of special effects and stuff,” Peli said. “But I found that in recent years many of the horror movies are more like jump scare kind of movies, where it’s the CGI and gore. And they’re entertaining in their own way, but they don’t end up really scaring me.”
Peli also explained about his own personal view of the supernatural, since this film is made to be so realistic.
“I prefer to consider myself agnostic about it,” Peli said. “So I don’t particularly believe it, but I’m open to the possibility that there might be something going on. But whether or not I believe it, I’m still scared of it.”
People have been watching this movie and then become too terrified to sleep. So why do people enjoy being scared?
“I think maybe it’s a way for people to kind of like deal with fears in a more controlled environment,” Peli said. “So, you know, these days the average person [doesn’t] have to deal with fear of a tiger entering your cave and eating you while you’re asleep. So most people feel pretty safe at home and going about their lives. So this is perhaps a way to kind of like get a rush in a controlled and safe environment.”
Paranormal Activity will be opening at midnight this Friday at Eastgate Cinemas.