‘Paranormal Activity 2′: Five Burning Questions Answered

Director Tod Williams reveals the secrets behind the sequel's major twists.

On Friday, as “Paranormal Activity 2″ kicked off its scream-inducing run to the #1 spot at the weekend box office , we revealed five secrets from the film’s production: everything from how the plot developed to how they pulled off special effects.

But there were a few secrets that were simply too spoilery to spill then. Now, though, with “Paranormal Activity 2″ having reeled in an estimated $41.5 million, we’re moving ahead and answering some of the film’s most burning questions (needless to say, major spoilers exist below).

How They Got the Prequel/Sequel Idea

As “Paranormal Activity 2″ begins, it’s very refreshing — not to mention super-freaking cool — to realize that it’s taking place two months before the events of the first “PA.” And, wow, it’s a mind-frak to realize that the final scenes take place after the plot of the first “PA.” The result is sort of a prequel/sequel hybrid.

How the heck did filmmakers come up with such an original idea?
Director Tod Williams told MTV News that the prequel was always part of the plan but the sequel idea popped up during production of the film.

“There was an idea to do a prequel right away. Like everybody, I thought there’s no way to make a sequel to this movie,” he said. “And when I read Michael Perry’s initial idea of how to approach the movie, I got really excited because that’s exactly the way you have to do it.
And then in terms of how it evolved to wrap around [the first movie], that came in the making. We got really excited when he discovered it, because I don’t think any other movie has that structure. I’m unaware of it. There’s no word for it.”

Any suggestions?

“Simul-quel, maybe,” Williams said.

Why They Introduce Katie That Way

Katie (Katie Featherston), of course, was one of the two main characters in “PA.” Let’s just say that things don’t end well for her.
In “PA 2,” you’ve just started to process the idea that the story is a prequel when who arrives at the family’s door? It’s Katie, sister of Kristi, one of the new movie’s main characters. It’s a satisfying reveal and has drawn gasps from audiences, but it wasn’t the filmmakers’ original idea.

Rather, they had an idea to cut to a shot of Katie holding Kristi’s baby, leaving audiences perplexed. Ultimately, though, they felt that reveal wouldn’t be true to the spirit of the first film.

“We toyed with the idea of her coming into the nursery and tending to the baby,” Williams said. “We were going to save her reveal for then and play that as, ‘Is that her? That’s creepy. What’s going on?’ And then we decided to go with this version, which is get it out right out front. ['PA' creator] Oren [Peli] has an idea that you have to be honest and straightforward with an audience, and we tried to stick to that idea.”

Why They Cast Sprague Grayden as Katie’s Sister

The identity of the “PA 2″ cast was kept strictly under wraps in the run-up to the film’s release. Only when midnight screenings began last week did we learn that Sprague Grayden (“Jericho,” “24″) was cast as Kristi. The role was the hardest for filmmakers to cast, and they only settled on Grayden at the last minute.

“We spent a lot of time and saw hundreds of people in L.A. We realized we had to go beyond L.A. We got actors from New York and Chicago,”
Williams said. “The one that was the hardest was Kristi because of everything we set up in the first film and the person had to be able to work in this kind of [improvisatory] environment and look like Katie.
It really was a hard one. [Sprague] came in right when we needed her to. It was a lucky thing that happened for us.”

How They Built the Scares

“PA 2″ begins like something of a romantic comedy: A new family moves into a house, filming their new surroundings with a camcorder and joking around at all times. The horror elements start from next to nothing — a creepily turning mobile above the baby’s crib — until they build to jump-out-of-your-seat moments.

Some viewers have argued that the scares simply don’t come quickly enough, but Williams has an entirely different philosophy when it comes to frightening an audience that fell in love with the original film.

“Following up on a movie like ‘Paranormal Activity,’ where the expectations are very high, is tricky,” he said. “Oren Peli’s film was so perfectly modulated. We knew that if we went and tried to scare the pants off you in the first minute, your guard is up. We’ve got to get you past the point where you think you’re prepared and just when you forget it’s coming, that’s when we come. Knowing that these movies are all about doing a lot with a little, we had to do everything very, very subtly.”

Why the Movie Ends the Way It Does

In the final scenes, a now demonically possessed Katie returns to Kristi’s house and kills her sister and brother-in-law. Frightening and unexpected, to say the least. Exactly how Katie committed those murders, however, changed during production. Williams said he shot a very bloody version of the murders but decided that such gore did not fit within the larger framework of the film.

“Normally you spend two years writing a screenplay and auditioning all these ideas,” he explained. “We didn’t have that time. But we did have a production environment that was exceedingly easy to run and operate.
Every idea was auditioned in the doing of it.”

Check out everything we’ve got on “Paranormal Activity 2.”

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