Last October, Ariel Schulman and Henry Joost delivered the third film of their “Paranormal Activity” series, an entry that managed to feel fresh and fun. Now, the two minds behind “Catfish” are back one year later for another round of found-footage scares. “Paranormal Activity 4” moves the action back to the present day, allowing for Joost and Schulman to flex their frightening muscles free from the constraints of 1988 technology.
As part of our Fall Movie Preview, MTV News spoke with the directors about making their return to “Paranormal,” and they shared some secrets on how they plan on scaring you all over again.
There’s No Place Like Home
What’s always made the “Paranormal” films work is that they are relatable, taking place in average-looking houses and employing technology we all have. When creating scares for a new movie, that’s where the directors start.
“If you step back and look at the house, they really need to come from the most primal place possible,” Schulman said. “We try to tap into what everyone’s a little scared of. We take a step back and sort of blur our vision and use the objects that we find around us. You don’t want to see too many special effects in these movies. The more grounded the scare, the better.”
One of the advantages of moving the action back to modern day is the ability to incorporate more familiar technology, like the video chat featured in the trailer. “That’s an amazing technique that we really loved, just because it seems like it’s built for a horror movie,” Joost said. “When you’re video chatting with someone, you can’t see behind you, but the audience watching this can. That plays a pretty big role in the movie.”
Fans of the previous movie will remember the “fan cam,” the rotating device that set up some of the best scares in “Paranormal Activity 3.” While the directors are enthusiastic about the video chat, Joost teased another scare that “rivals the fan cam in sheer craziness.”
The Great Outdoors
For the most part, the terror of “Paranormal Activity” has been contained inside the house. But this time around, the directors are pushing beyond those familiar boundaries.
“We wanted to push it outside the house a little bit, so we’ve been trying to do that,” Joost said. “I think that each of these movies has to expand a little bit. In some ways, we’ve pushed the house as far as it will go in ’Paranormal 3.’ ”
One aspect that Schulman and Joost wanted the fourth film to inherit from “Paranormal Activity 3″ was its humor. “It was really important to us that it be funny, and we tried to look for actors that are really good at improvising,” Joost said. “Improv comics turned out to be great for these types of films. As scary as they are, I think horror and comedy go hand-in-hand. I thought our most successful scenes last year were the ones that were really scary and really funny and really scary again.”
Jumping the Shark
Four movies is a lot for any series, and once a horror franchise starts putting up bigger and bigger numbers, quality is almost always going to go in the opposite direction. To stave off that turn, Joost and Schulman have a two-part plan.
“We’re trying to blow the lid off,” Joost said.
“At the same time, the warning is always that you don’t want to jump the shark. You don’t want to be one of those franchises that just goes too big too soon just because you feel that you need to break new ground,” Schulman said. “What I think makes these movies really special is that they build very slowly. We’re not trying to get ahead of ourselves.”
“Paranormal Activity 4″ opens on October 19.
What’s your favorite “Paranormal Activity” movie so far? Let us know in the comments!