Recently, Bloody-Mess.net associate editor SICKKGIRL had the fantastic opportunity to interview Ariel Schulman, co-director of the fourth installment of the wildly popular Paranormal Activity series, as well as the documentary film Catfish. With the series developing into one of the better known continuing stories in modern horror, we were all keen to find out what the rising star director had to say about his work on the film.
SG: How did the two of you get involved with the Paranormal Activity series, were you fans of the first two films and did the success of catfish have much to do with it?
AS: We’d been fans of the first two “Paranormal’s but never thought in a million years we’d be asked to direct the third one. We didn’t even consider ourselves horror directors. But the Paranormal team at Paramount really liked Catfish, and based on the one really scary scene in that movie, thought we’d be a good fit.
SG: The trailers (especially with Paranormal Activity 3), includes a lot of footage not included in the films, was this deliberate?
AS: That was not deliberate. The film’s production timeline is so fast that the marketing team is cutting a trailer while were shooting. They don’t know exactly what scenes were keeping the final edit by the time they need to release a trailer, and neither do we. We end up cutting scenes at the last minute. The positive side-effect to that is that the audience thinks they know what they’re going to see but is in fact surprised, which is the point of horror and suspense. Most trailers give everything away.
SG: How did the idea of using a Kinect in Paranormal Activity 4 come about?
AS: The objective of the found footage genre is to motivate the camera with a camera the characters would have. We settled on laptops this year, because it seemed so natural for a modern house with two kids. We considered using the camera in the Kinect as well, but then we found this YouTube video showing what else the Kinect could do…project thousands of infrared tracking dots. So we thought that was cool.
SG: What is the hardest part about filming in the found footage style and did you come across any major problems?
AS: The hardest part is motivating the camera in an expositional scene. You have to figure out how to have a character say important stuff naturally, and have a camera believably rolling.
SG: How do you feel when fans say that the films are very repetitive and predictable, do you feel like you have to push the boundaries more?
AS: That’s part of the charm of the films. They have to be repetitive and slow to lure you into their suspense. But predictable isn’t good, we should always push the boundaries.
SG: There is a Latino spin-off in the works, which is going to be directed by a writer in the Paranormal Activity series, but how closely will this tie in with the original series?
AS: We can’t really say. That project is under double secret confidence within the studio.
SG: Have you guys thought about how you would like the series to end and how many more sequels would that produce?
AS: We’d like it to beat the Saw franchise, and end with angels and unicorns.
SG: On a few social networking sites, there is a man called Jacob Degloshi. He most recently posted a photo on twitter of his daughter with her friend ‘Alex’ from PA4; also he is posting videos of ‘Katie’ and ‘Kristi’ as children from old VHS tapes he found in his daughters suitcase. Can you tell us anymore information about this?
AS: That sounds like a crazy tie-in to the movie. Paramount gets pretty funky with marketing…I’ll check it out.
Thank you very much, Mr. Schulman – we can’t wait to see what you do next!
Knowing now what the director had to say about his film, let’s move on to an in-depth look at the film itself.
The fourth installment in the Paranormal Activity series, directed again by duo Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman, takes a different route compared to the first three. It is the first film to not focus on the main family from the previous films, and instead features a new family – the Nelsons. The main protagonist in this is a blonde, teenage girl named Alex (Kathryn Newton), and she records the supernatural goings on in her house after her family takes in a neighbour’s child.
Even though this film has many negative reviews about it, mostly all including the usual ‘it’s just the same film as the previous three’ and ‘nothing really happened’, I have to disagree with them. Okay, so it doesn’t add much to the original plot, but it did inform us about Hunter’s whereabouts and showed him getting ready for the demon – Toby, to take possession of him. It is a very fascinating story and deepens the primary plot even more. What people have to realise is that this film is part of a series and it’s not the final film, so all of the questions won’t be answered in one go.
Compared to the previous three films, this one has definitely toned down the amount of jump scares used, and concentrates more on making full scenes creepy. By doing this, the audience will be feeling more on edge, as they won’t be able to guess where the jump scares will be as easily. Also, it allows the directors to focus on making both the children in the film (Robbie and Wyatt) creepy and mysterious throughout. This makes it a very thrilling watch all the way through.
This film uses different forms of technology to film the supernatural activity, including an Xbox Kinect, the webcams in laptops and an I-Phone. Each of these was very interesting to see how they would work, instead of just using video cameras. They all definitely succeeded in capturing the events in a new way, as well as also still being realistic. The best part about using these forms of technology is that the audience are welcomed into looking all around the screen for slight movements that could be paranormal activity. There are certainly a few cases of this in this film, the more noticeable ones taking place during the Kinect scenes.
The greatest part of this film was the ending, truly creepy and will leave you wanting more. Not only does it raise more questions to be answered, but it ties up some old ones, such as – is Katie involved with the coven? It is literally a perfect ending.