What happened with the 2009 horror movie Paranormal Activity was a once in a lifetime experience. Paranormal Activity director Oren Peli possessed no film experience, but he had a good idea for a movie. Peli came up with $15,000 and got his buddies to help film the horror movie at his house on a home video camera. Somehow, someway, his $15K movie made almost $200 million worldwide.
Peli is an Israeli-born software designer. While his debut behind the camera (and as a screenwriter) produced a solid outline for a horror film, he can thank a lot of Paranormal Activity’s success to a viral marketing campaign. His story - a young couple move into their first house together only to become convinced their bedroom is haunted by a demonic presence - hit audiences where they feel the most vulnerable: their sleep.
What the couple finds when they set up a camera to record the room while they sleep made viewers scream. It was a dream come true for both its freshman filmmaker and the studios that backed the project, and there are some amazing behind-the-scenes facts about Paranormal Activity.
Spielberg Reportedly Believed He Possessed A Haunted Copy Of 'Paranormal Activity'
A well-told urban legend states Steven Spielberg believed his DVD copy of Paranormal Activity was haunted. Spielberg and his company, DreamWorks, were trying to decide whether to back Paranormal Activity. The popular tale claims Spielberg brought home a DVD copy of the horror film. While he was watching the movie, the door to his bedroom shut and locked from the inside. The director wound up needing to call a locksmith.
Spielberg put the copy of the movie in a garbage bag, because he was so freaked out he didn't want to touch it. He then brought it to the DreamWorks office. Despite his terror - or perhaps because of it - he backed the movie and helped the project move forward.
Peli Filmed Three Different Endings
Peli filmed three different endings for Paranormal Activity. A theatrical, original, and alternate ending all exist. Spielberg was one of the studio executives who wanted a different ending from the one Peli wrote. Each ending features a totally different climax for the film's lead characters. Peli also had a fourth ending in mind, but it was deemed too complicated and cruel to warrant filming.
The Trailer's YouTube Release Became Another Marketing Home RunVideo: YouTube
The producers of Paranormal Activity can thank YouTube for much of their box office success. In yet another marketing home run, the filmmakers cut a trailer for the horror movie and released it on YouTube, which drew millions of views.
The trailer intercut clips from the movie with shots of horrified audience members watching the film during a test screening. Their genuine reactions only added intrigue to the already buzz-generating horror movie.
Peli Got The Idea For The Story From His Own Supernatural Experience
Peli is not claiming he had a ghost in his house, but a few weird things he couldn't quite explain occurred. In order to find a few answers, Peli set up cameras all around his home to record things while he slept at night. Thus, Peli came up with the idea for his first feature film:
I thought it would make a great movie. I think a lot of people can relate to the question of what happens at night when you’re most vulnerable. You have no idea what’s going on. This taps into the most primal fear, if something is lurking in your home there’s not much you can do about it.