Haunted ‘Paranormal Activity’ Screener Left Steven Spielberg Terrified

I’m no tough guy, but honestly I don’t get scared easily by horror films. However, one movie from my childhood still creeps me out to this day: “Poltergeist.” Between the hungry oak tree and the demonic clown doll, I blame Steven Spielberg, who produced, co-wrote and partly co-directed the film, for many of the nightmares and fears I’ve had throughout my life.

Now that I’m hearing that Spielberg had the crap scared out of him by “Paranormal Activity,” I’m both afraid and anxious to see the $15,000 indie sensation, opening in select cities this weekend. According to a story from the Los Angeles Times on the history of the film, after his company, DreamWorks, acquired “Paranormal Activity,” Spielberg took a DVD home and was given quite a fright.

After watching the spooky movie, a “Blair Witch”-style haunted-house tale, the door to Spielberg’s bedroom locked itself from the inside and the filmmaker had to call a locksmith to get out. The next day he’s said to have been so scared he immediately brought the DVD back to the DreamWorks offices in a garbage bag.

Of course, this could all be a cleverly concocted story with which to sell the movie — as Latino Review notes, “a faulty lock in a drafty house go[es] a long way in this town.” But it’s working on me even more than some of the other smart elements of the “Paranormal Activity” marketing, which includes a trailer focusing on an audience’s reactions, free midnight screenings, a “demand it in your city” distribution campaign and a neat, interactive Twitter account (@TweetYourScream).

Not that I need more nightmares to go along with my continued “Poltergeist”-inspired dreams, but I just went and RSVP’d for the free New York screening happening Thursday night and look forward to having a rare moment (for me) of being truly frightened at the movies.

“Paranormal Activity” is famous for having taken three years to hit the multiplex, but really it seems more like I’ve been waiting 27 years for something like this.

Do you buy the Spielberg story? Even if not true, do you agree it’s a good way of selling the movie? Will you be seeing the film when it hits your city?