"Paranormal Activity" wouldn't have been shown in mainstream theaters if not for movie fans demanding it. But we can also thank one particular movie lover for getting it distributed: Steven Spielberg. A widely circulated part of the film's backstory involves Spielberg viewing — and being terrified by — the low-budget horror flick.

And "Paranormal Activity" writer/director Oren Peli couldn't be happier about his idol's reaction.

"It was amazing," he told MTV News of Spielberg's interest in the film. "One of the most shocking moments of my life was to hear that not only he saw the movie, but he loved it and was frightened by it."

Peli admitted Spielberg has been a major influence on him from the beginning, not just in terms of his filmmaking but also in how he got started in the business: by "taking the initiative and sneaking into Universal Studios."

Titles Peli cited as having an effect on him included Spielberg's early thrillers "Duel," "Jaws" and "Close Encounters of the Third Kind." That last one is a clear influence on Peli's next film, "Area 51," a sci-fi horror picture that focuses on the top-secret, allegedly UFO-related U.S. military base.

Peli also cited the Indiana Jones movies among his favorites. "When I was a kid, especially 'Temple of Doom' scared me. [Spielberg] definitely helped define so many genres. As a kid watching these movies I never thought that some day I'll make a movie that he's going to watch."

Surprisingly, Peli did not reference "Poltergeist," a seminal haunted-house film that Spielberg wrote, produced and somewhat co-directed. There are certain parallels between that horror classic and "Paranormal Activity," including their similar tract-house setting and the focus of the haunting being on a young girl throughout her life.

Back in the '80s, when "Poltergeist" was made, Spielberg was viewed as a mentor to many directors, so it's not surprising that he is now receiving credit, though unofficially and less directly, for assisting in a novice filmmaker's career. Still, Peli can hardly believe he now has a connection to the Hollywood legend.

"That was absolutely surreal to find out he watched the movie," Peli said. "Even if he watched it and hated it I would have been stoked. But the fact that he loved it, that was amazing."

Check out everything we've got on "Paranormal Activity."

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