A packed crowd at a midnight screening Sunday of director Oren Peli’s no-budget, ghosts-in-the-house horror film Paranormal Activity screamed at all the right places, then chain-smoked cigarettes outside Slamdance’s ramshackle Main Street HQ in order to decompress. Standing with them, we heard the same word being said over and over between drags.
But could Paranormal Activity — with its shaky, hand-held-camera work and documentary-like storytelling — be the next Cloverfield, only with ghosts instead of a Manhattan-chewing monster? Maybe so, one New York exec told us. After all, a lot of Cloverfield fans are already too young to figure out that Paranormal Activity is just a tweak on another Park City discovery, 1999's The Blair Witch Project. And Peli isn't discouraging the comparisons with this weekend's blockbuster.
“I can see the comparison because there are similar elements and both films go for a certain realism,” Peli told us. “But it’s a different story and has a different feel. It’s about claustrophobia, not awesome monster special effects.” We have to think that at least some of Cloverfield's $46 million holiday-weekend gross came from audiences who were just in it for the awesome monster special effects, but maybe some acquisitions executive will take a gamble anyway. No deal has been announced thus far. —Steve Ramos