Oren Peli may be the biggest name in horror right now. There I said it. Love his work or hate it, there really is no argument about his influence on the genre. From Paranormal Activity and beyond, Peli has played a huge part in bringing the horror genre back into the good graces of popular culture.[podcast]http://old.downrightcreepy.com/interviews/DownRightCreepy_Interview_Oren_Peli.mp3[/podcast]
DRC: We’re speaking with Oren Peli, producer of INSIDIOUS, mastermind behind PARANORMAL ACITIVITY, and this weekend you can catch his new film, CHERNOBYL DIARIES in theaters everywhere May 25th.
Oren, welcome to the Creepcast! How are you?
OP: I’m doing good, thanks! How are you?
DRC: I’m Good!
Now since CHERNOBYL DIARIES reference an actual tragedy I’m just wondering how difficult or important it was to walk the line between what serves as a story and what serves as actual history – and was that a major concern?
OP: Well, we never focused on trying to offend anyone. Although the movie does take place in a weird location – we thought essentially part of what the movie very real, effective and scary. And beyond that it is obviously a very fictionalized movie. So we are not trying to have any political statement or claim that any of these events are real. But we are using a real setting as a backdrop for everything that goes on there which we felt like could make a very effective horror movie.
DRC: Yeah it was funny because we did a contest for some CHERNOBYL DIARIES gear and we had someone actually bring it up and say “I can’t believe they are doing this”…but then I thought if you think about horror movies there are a lot of them that are based on touchy subjects, not just necessarily events. So I thought I would ask and get your opinion.
We see in the trailer the movie kind of mixes found footage with a more traditional style of filming. What do you think the found footage adds to this story in particular?
OP: In CHERNOBYL DIARIES the movie itself is not found footage – we may have about 3 or 4 minutes of found footage inside the movie but the rest of it is not found footage. I personally like found footage when it makes sense for the right project. It helps the audience really connect with the characters in a contextual way. We heard a lot when we were making PARANORMAL ACTIVITY, we asked what people thought made the movie so scary and they would say, ‘I knew the story wasn’t real, but it felt real’ And in CHERNOBYL DIARIES we didn’t want to set out to make a found footage movie but we did want to capture a lot of realism in traditional film so we started in such a way that allow much of the actors to improvise much of their dialogue. So it was really fun for us to make it feel like you were going on a journey with these characters as oppose to actors reading lines.
DRC: Yeah and with PARANORMAL ACTIVITY for instance, we brought that up a second ago, that something from a budgetary stand point a lot of filmmakers might be interested in telling a story but they don’t have the budget can certainly do that – and so I think with BLAIR WITCH, which I believe was an influence for you, and now kind of rebooting that found footage craze in a sense with you PARANORMAL ACTIVITY stuff. Interesting movement that you kind of recreated from BLAIR WITCH.
You work in the horror genre a lot – I’m not even sure if I can think of something off the top of my head that you’ve been connected outside of it. Is it the fan base or just something you’ve always been passionate about?
OP: Well you know I did PARANORMAL ACTIVITY because I had an idea for the movie and it launched opportunities to create other horror movies. Sequels, INSIDIOUS and a few others. So I’ve just been having a lot of fun and enjoying the ride and taking advantage of the opportunity. It would be cool to make a movie in Chernobyl and actually have people and supporting you in what you are doing, and having a lot of fun.
But I just think at some point maybe later in my career I would like to try and branch out to a few others if it makes sense.
DRC: Ok. I’m interested to see what those projects will be in the future.
OP: Me too!
DRC: We talked a little bit about PARANORMAL ACTIVITY – the forth installment comes out this October and I’m curious if you see this going beyond that or is it more of a box office thing that you’ll kind of wait and see how this performance? If so how much staying power does the franchise have? Cause right now we are in that comparison I think to SAW just because both movies came out on schedule every year of the course of the last few years. So I’m curious how much staying power you think this has – and is it possibly the last one?
OP: Well with PARANORMAL ACTIVITY for example I personally had no idea that there would be any sequels when we wrote the first one. Then we had a writer that came up with a very smart idea on how to do PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 2 and we thought, well that actually makes sense and that could actually work! When it had success we said well lets do it again and do a third one – and since everyone responded to that very positively and the movie became successful. So I think that if the audience demands for another sequel and as long as we can come up with a good idea then we’ll keep making another one. But we never think beyond the current one, so we are focusing on the projects we are currently dealing with and we take a wait and see approach before we start thinking about the next one.
DRC: I think it’s worked extremely well – because usually you see a prequel with a horror franchise kind of stuck in the middle when maybe they run out of ideas. But this one was very smart to kind of start backwards and work your way out from there.
OP: Yeah. We ended up working with a very smart writer and he took the franchise in an unexpected direction and it worked really well with the fans.
DRC: Yeah. It’s been fantastic.
I know earlier we talked about some future projects and stuff like that and you’ve been quoted as saying you like that “slow-burn” horror approach. So I was curious if you’d ever want to hook up with Ti West anytime soon since he is an up and coming director and he has that effective “slow-burn” method to his stories.
OP: Yeah. Actually I recently watched THE INNKPEEERS and thought it was a really good example of how you can make a really effective horror movie without the gore and being shocking like a lot of techniques of modern horror films. So I definitely thought, wow. I’m definitely open if the right project comes along and it makes sense I’m open to the collaboration.
DRC: I think that would make a great pairing. So I really hope that happens.
OP: Me too!
DRC: Last but not least, I don’t know if you can even speak about this, you typically don’t like to talk about future projects, but i figured I will at least ask anyone because we’ve had some fans ask about it. LORDS OF SALEM, Rob Zombie’s new movie, there have been a few rumors that it might be delayed. I’m not sure if that is true so rather to speak on anything about the film I was curious if you can tell us if we are closer to a firm release date or a trailer or anything like that?
OP: Unfortunately, I do have a strict no comment policy unless I’m doing the work. So unless we are able to officially announce something I’ve learned it is probably best just to keep my mouth shut.
DRC: Ok, fair enough, we’ll take that. I understand. There are a lot of people looking forward to LORDS OF SALEM and he always has a nice eclectic cast that you don’t normally expect and brings back some people he works with on a regular basis. I was excited to see you were involved in that.
OP: Thank you.
DRC: Ok, I’m going to go ahead and close this up. Oren, I want to thank you once again for joining us again on the Creepcast. It’s been a pleasure to talk to you – good luck on your future projects. Hopefully we can keep in touch if something comes up and get you back on. Everyone check out CHERNOBYL DIARIES in theaters everywhere May 25th.
Ladies and gentleman Oren Peli.
OP: Thank you so much.
DRC: Thank you.
Chernobyl Diaries releases theatrically nationwide on May 25th.