‘Paranormal Activity’ Director Oren Peli On What Scares Him During Halloween

Halloween is on Saturday. Most of you probably know this already. What you may not know is that we’ve got a full week of crazy Halloween coverage for you here on MTV Movies Blog. Exclusive clips and photos. Interviews. Lists. Blog posts from guest writer (and “The Box director) Richard Kelly. Perhaps even a virgin sacrifice or two, provided we can find some willing readers. Note to willing readers: you can volunteer your immortal soul to us at tips@mtvmoviesblog.com.

The week’s festivities include daily lists of kickass movies to watch on or around Halloween. I know what you’re thinking. “You guys always post lists on the Movies Blog.” Well yes, that’s very true. But these lists were picked by celebrities! People who understand what real fear is. First up for the week is Oren Peli, director of the hugely successful “Paranormal Activity.” Since he’s been so busy scaring us all, look at this as an opportunity to find out what scares him. Find the goods after the jump.

“The Exorcist” (1973)
Peli was quick to mention “The Exorcist” when I asked for his list during a recent interview. No thought required, that was the first one out of his mouth. “No other movie ever freaked me out like ’The Exorcist,'” he said. It shows in “Paranormal,” which could certainly have transformed into a found footage take on William Friedkin’s classic had Micah and Katie been successful in hiring a demonologist to aid them. The horror classic had a real impact on Peli. “After I watched ’The Exorcist’ I refused to watch any other movie that had anything to do with ghosts or demons. I didn’t even watch ’Ghostbusters’ until I was much older.”

“The Others” (2001)
I was caught off guard by Peli’s second pick, the Alejandro Amenabar-directed horror flick, “The Others.” Which isn’t to say it’s a bad movie, but I found it interesting that Peli followed up his kneejerk classic with this, a far more recent effort. I hesitate to say much, lest I spoil any twists. Suffice to say that the movie centers on a mother (Nicole Kidman) and her two children, who are afflicted with a rare disease that forces them to stay out of the sunlight. Strange, yes, but things don’t get really weird until mom hires a trio of servants… servants with secrets!

“The Blair Witch Project” (1999)
As Peli said to explain this pick, “Of course.” The director has been very frank about how found footage efforts, particularly “The Blair Witch Project,” influenced him. And I agree completely: “Blair Witch” holds up. Filmmakers Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez crafted an eminently suspenseful horror flick in “Blair Witch,” using the “tell, don’t show” philosophy to brilliant effect. It’s no wonder Peli finds inspiration in work such as this… and no wonder that it’s still a top-ranking work of horror in his book.

“Rosemary’s Baby” (1968)
Another horror classic. MTV’s Gore Girls recently took a look at Roman Polanski’s tale of the antichrist’s birth. There’s a reason “Rosemary’s Baby” is considered an enduring classic. Peli didn’t have much to say on why he’s so scared of this one, but it’s easy enough to figure out. Like “Paranormal Activity,” “Rosemary’s Baby” is very much about finding horror in the unlikeliest of places. Case in point: Rosemary’s neighbors are actually Satan-worshipping sociopaths. Go figure.

“Close Encounters of the Third Kind” (1977)
This might seem like a bit of an oddball to some of you. After all, I remember seeing Steven Spielberg’s “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” as a kid, multiple times, but it never freaked me out. And I was a big wuss, to the point that I hid my eyes through much of my first viewing of “Ghostbusters.” And Peli has a perfectly reasonable explanation for what got to him. “The abduction scene really freaked me out,” he explained. “As a kid, it definitely affected me.” What’s the takeaway here? We should all go home and pore over “Close Encounters” for clues to Peli’s next gig, “Area 51.”