Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension - Oren Peli On What Scares Him & The Future of Horror

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Ever since Oren Peli scared audiences back in 2006 with his first Paranormal Activity, audiences worldwide have been checking their closets and underneath their beds before going to sleep. With every release, the franchise has brought the scares over and over again, cementing it's place among horror classics.

This weekend sees the release of the franchise's final film, Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension. We were lucky enough to talk to Peli about his thoughts on the franchise as a whole, what scares him and what he thinks keeps people going to horror movies.

You guys are going into this film, knowing it's the last one. Was there anything in particular that made it feel like this one should be it for you guys? Or, am I speaking prematurely, and you guys already have plans to work on something new and different, but in this world?

Oren: Well, I can say, honestly that I have not heard anyone from the studio talk about making another movie. So, as far as I know, this really is going to be the last one. I mean, who knows, maybe in 10 years they're going to want to do a remake or a reboot or something like that. But, as far as this particular storyline, as far as I know, this is it.

But to answer the first part of your question, I think it makes sense for this to be the last chapter because first of all we had a really good run so far. And, we feel like we built quite an extensive mythology and we were teasing the audience a lot. We were investing the story but raising a lot of questions. And, we thought, in this movie, we would kind of like try to bring everything to a close and explain a lot of what's been going on in the series so far. And also, we are, for the first time, showing things that were never shown before. Up until now we kind of were playing psychological tricks with the audience. as far as the suspense, by making them imagine and feel and hear things. A lot of that still happens in this movie but now for the first time we are actually going to show visually how the activity starts and evolves in the house until you finally actually see the form of the demon.

So, we felt like we may consider this to be a very satisfying conclusion for the franchise.

With the franchise, we've seen a lot of aspects of classic horror movies make their way into the films. Which of them have been your favorite to work into them?

Oren: For me, the most influence that I had, obviously, was over the first Paranormal Activity, where I was the writer, director, producer and editor and I was in charge of almost all elements of it. And, I also. I would say, the direct influence on the first one was from movies like Blair Witch Project, the original Robert White's Haunting, and the Sixth Sense. They were movies that took their time to build up the suspense and didn't necessarily rely on jump scares. They also tried to play tricks with your mind, rather than shock you with visual gore. So, that was my direct influence on the first one.

Then, as we went forward with the sequel, we were still trying to stay true to the original format of the first but also add a lot of new elements. And, they were basically drawn from lots of different movies. We would have a much larger creative team on the sequel, involving the new director or directors. Writers, the studio directive teams. So a lot of people were contributing from their own experiences. So, someone would say, "Hey, there was a cool element in Poltergeist. Maybe we can use that in this movie." And, people would draw from a wide variety of other horror movies that they'd seen throughout their life. So, a lot of them are really kind of hard to pinpoint anything specific but its kind a bit of collective consciousness of the creative group.

What scares you?

Oren: For me, when it comes to horror films, it sort of like what I was trying to draw from the first Paranormal Activity, the fear of the unknown. I'm personally a skeptic. I don't necessarily believe in the supernatural. But, the concept that there might be something invisible in your own house, that may be lurking around; you don't know what it is, you don't know where it came from, you don't know what it wants and you don't know how to defend yourself against it. It's may be in your house, doing whatever it's doing, while you're asleep and most vulnerable. To me, that's something that's a very scary concept.

Like, one of the things that I was trying to do with the first one is if you think back to about Jaws when it came out and people were saying "I'm done. I'm never going into the ocean again." Or, after Blair Witch came out, and people said, "Oh, I'm never going camping in the woods again. But if the danger is in your own house, while you're asleep, well, how do you defend yourself against it? You can't say, "I'm never going to sleep again." So, that's something that to me was very scary, something invading your house when you're suppose to be the safest and secure. And, then there is really nowhere you can go, especially if he's attached to you, to basically defend yourself against it.

Throughout the series, we've met a number of different characters who all seem like average joes. How important is that aspect of the storytelling?

Oren: One of the things we were trying to do is to make the families and the characters feel as relatable as possible. Make them seem like they were regular, ordinary, average people that weren't asking for it. They weren't ghost hunters that went to a remote haunted castle in Scotland or something like that. They were just ordinary people, going about their lives, living in their normal homes, and then something just happens to them without them even asking for it. And that, I think, makes it scarier, because then people can think, "Wow, that can happen to anyone. It can happen to me."

You've spent a considerable amount of time in the horror genre, obviously. After this one, are you looking to potentially branch out and to do something else? Is there a type of movie that you'd like to tackle when you put this one to bed? Or, are you still looking to scare audiences for years to come?

Oren: Well, first of all, I'll say that specifically I don't really ever talk about what's going to be the next project I'm going to be expecting. I just like to keep my mouth shut until I have something to present. But, generally speaking, I'm not exclusively interested in just horror. I am open minded to whatever will excite me and will make sense, regardless of the format or genre or style, So, yeah, I'm not just specifically only interested in horror.

Why do you think audiences like to be scared? Is there something sort of behind our sub-conscious that, you know, we can't get enough of it?

Oren: Well, I've been thinking about it a lot. I don't know if I have the right answer. What I think is that being scared, like being primarily scared is a human emotion that has always been around. And, if you think way back to the caveman days, you were scared every day because everyday could be your last day. In the middle of the night a tiger could come into your cave and kill you. You had to hunt to get food. Everyday was, you know, a struggle for life. These days, your life is pretty safe and probably the most dangerous thing that you do is merging onto the freeway. So, for a lot of people, you never get to experience this primal emotion. And, I think that's why people like going on roller coasters or to scary movies, because, that's a safe way. You know you are going to be safe. You know you're not going to die watching the movie, but you get to experience some of those primal emotions that are ingrained in humans that normally in our normal basic lives you don't get to ever experience. So, I think that's something that people get a kick out of, the adrenaline rush and the excitement of the film that is showing.

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So what do you think ComicBook.com readers? Will you be heading out to see Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimenison this weekend? Let us know in the comments below.