This week's cover: How 'Paranormal Activity' became a scary box-office smash

ew-cover-1074_lParanormal Activity began its otherworldly existence as a little horror flick, made for $11,000 and shot entirely in the director’s house over the course of seven days. Now, thanks to a little help from Steven Spielberg and a savvy world-of-mouth marketing campaign by Paramount, its box office total has reached $62 million and counting. Hollywood is spellbound — and there are even plans for a sequel.

But the film has proved positively life-changing for stars Katie Featherston and Micah Sloat, who were originally paid $500 each for their work (and who, like writer-director Oren Peli, will reap some of the film’s profits). “I don’t have to have a job other than acting,” says Featherston, who was until recently waiting tables. “So I bought a handbag,” she adds with a laugh. Now it’s a matter of keeping their careers in motion. “I just have to get out there and audition and use this opportunity to the best of my advantage,” she says. “I’ve been at this a long time, and I’m not gonna stop now.”

Though neither she nor Sloat have lined up their next job, they’ve both signed with agents. And they seem almost embarrassed by the VIP treatment the industry is starting to give them. “The quality of meetings we’re able to get right now are much higher. So are the scripts,” says Featherston. Sloat adds: “Just going in the room with casting directors is a lot different. It’s like, ‘Okay, I’ve seen your work, I know what you can do. Let’s just see you in this role.’” The actor has at least one idea for spending his newfound capital. “I would love to have a massive party and meet all the sweaty, geeky, awesome fans who posted on the Internet and believed in the film,” he says. “I just want to thank them.”

For more on Paranormal Activity, including why the film almost didn’t make into theaters and details of the seven-day shoot, pick up the new issue of Entertainment Weekly on stands Friday, October 30.

Comments (183 total) Add your comment
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  • Brian

    This movie is waaaaaay overrated

    • Jake

      are you kidding? this has to be the scariest film i’ve ever seen, and the support it’s getting- being such a low budget indie flick- is incredible. i support this film all the way, and love every bit of attention its getting.

      • alex

        Nope, not scary. Overrated and overhyped.

      • Carey

        Not the scariest film I’ve ever seen nor close to it, but it was really well done. I enjoyed it. I recommend it highly!

      • Lee

        I’ll take PA over Saw. Gore films get repetitious after a while. But films like PA that are made a la Hitchcock never get old.

      • Simon

        it was also shot in 7 days, with budged of 11k $ … makes it more impressive

      • heather

        it was alot of hype,u kept waiting for something to happen,it really took awhile to get moving…it had some scary moments…i saw the alternative ending and the original in theater ending,alternative ending kicks theater endings butt…lol…

    • Quirky

      Scary is completely different for each person. For me Saving Private Ryan was a far creepier and scary movie than Saw ever was.

      • kope

        Indeed – I find the tea-baggers & birthers way scarier than any movie because they are actually living in our society.

      • Deftoll

        Wow I never thought anyone would share the exact same thought. I agree Saving Private Ryan was by far the scariest movie I’ve ever seen. It kept me up for about 2 weeks.

    • Get A Q

      This site has become the land of douche_bags.

    • Kay

      I agree. I’m a total wuss who scares easy and this movie really didn’t scare me at all. I honestly didn’t see what the fuss was about. I guess it’s just not my type of scary. I’d rather watch The Ring again. That freaked me out!

    • Deidre

      I was totally freaked by this movie because of how realistic-until the end-it seemed. Although I will admit that the beginning really dragged and I almost left, but I’m definitely glad I stayed.

    • bwian

      brian is overrated.

    • t3hdow

      Paranormal Activity is well made and produced for its budget, and I’m glad independent movies can still succeed in this movie era. But yeah, it wasn’t all that scary. I’ve played videogames that frightened me much more than PA ever did.

    • lyn

      I agree it is overrated as far as the “scary” goes…However I think it is fantastic that someone could come in and make a low budget picture and it have an unprecedented turnout.GOOD for them !!!!

    • kent

      actually this movie is based on a true story my sister boyfriend used to live in one everyday when he came home from school the ghost made his bed and he sees a red fingernail by his bed really frighting but its not scaring me but if i see this in real life then see what happens PS dont mess with the ouija board or something may happen like the movie or worst

  • mscisluv

    Well at least this cover design isn’t as terrible as most of them have been lately.

    • Fran Anderson

      Yeah, I am so glad they are covering this movie more, but a lot of their covers have been close-up shots with a ton of negative space.

      EW as a whole has been pretty bad lately, but it is always nice to see them cover something more than their usual 90210, Gossip Girl BS.

  • Jeff

    I hate all the “haters” on this movie. All the people who have grown up on torture porn say that this movie isn’t scary. Sorry, but watching someone get sliced and diced isn’t scary to me. Seeing and hearing unexplainable phenomenon is definitely scary. This movie rocked.

    • Fran Anderson

      I can totally understand why movie-goers trained on visceral thrills have trouble getting into a more mental-horror driven movie.

      It is a shame, but I can understand it.

      • Ron

        Well I can say this much I am a horror movie nut! I have the biggest collection of horror movies out there some really bad! As in they sucked. Yep it is hard to scare me! BUT NO I do not like slasher films to me those aren’t real horror movies they shold have their own category! Psycholigical horror are the best! thats being said I thought PA sucked! There was nothing scary about it! NOW if it were real! if that was actually footage fo REAL events yes it would be scary! I think people who were scared of this movie have a hard time seperate fantasy from reality. Now as far as me not scaring easily. My mother said she wanted to see this. and I said no cause she scares very easily but she insisted so I brought her to thinking she is going to have to leave she will be so scared! she was more scared by the previews of 2012 that came on the screen and she says this movie was NOT scary at all! So there ya go someone who is 63 years old and is NOT a regular horror movie goer and gets scared very easily was not scared one bit!

    • crispy

      Jeff, I think that’s a bit of an over-simplification. I’m well into my 30s, despise torture porn, and I didn’t think this movie was all that scary. It was creepy for sure. But a door opening and closing just doesn’t scare me. Every time something genuinely scary was about to happen, the camera faded to black and then it was the next day. To me, this movie was all about the anticipation of being scared, which is where I think it succeeded.

      • Julius

        I agree Crispy – I don’t find torture porn scary and I didn’t find Paranormal Activity scary. Don’t get me wrong, I loved PA and am recommending it to all my friends because it’s a breath of fresh air. But no to scary. Actually, what IS a scary movie? Last time I was scared was when I was like 12 & watched Event Horizon. Then I Netflixed it again a few months back & found it to be a comedy. Sigh :(

      • Carey

        I agree with both of you. I can’t stand torture porn (where’s the enjoyment in that?), and I didn’t find PA particularly SCARY scary. Sure it was creepy, and really well done and I really enjoyed it. But there weren’t really any make-me-jump-in-my-seat moments.

      • John

        I don’t think SCARY is the right word to use to describe PA. I would use the word SUSPENSE–like the Hitchcock films. That’s why I liked PA.

    • Scott

      I hate all the haters of the haters on this movie

    • ccf

      I agree, I loved it. If you really put yourself in their place, you would be freaked out too. Just her staring at him overnight still gives me chills.

    • Billy

      Unexplained phenomena is what makes this movie so scary? That’s silly. I could come up with a completely non-sequitor storyline and that would be unexplained. I’ll make a movie about a talking bagel that changes the weather with its poppy seeds. Oh, what a fresh idea! Then you can downplay everyone’s criticisms but saying that the new generation is too jaded to understand how scary it would be if a bagel took over the weather! Kids these days just aren’t as sophisticated as you, with your grandiose taste in horror films where an invisible demon terrorizes a bickering couple by shutting doors and moving bed sheets. SCARY STUFF!

      • Ryan C.

        Ok… When you compare a demon haunting a girl throughout her life to a bagel changing weather with its poppy seeds you end up sounding like a moron. Really think about what you are saying and think about movies and their purpose… Movies are made to entertain and like a lot of horror and suspense movies in the last 15-20 years… There are handfull of them that can be actually called suspenseful and scary. Paranormal Activity is one of them because it has unexplainable mythical things(Demons, exorcisms) that terrorize them in their most vulnerable position (Sleep). For only being made from a $11,000 budget, it is probably the best breath of fresh air any horror/suspense fan has had in recent memory. Don’t try to bring the movie down by comparing it to something idiotic like you creating a story of bagels changing the weather. If you didn’t like the movie… So be it… You are not so “sophisticated” yourself considering it seems you can’t understand that there are many forms of “Scary” and not just one.

      • Mac

        Ha! He could have come up with this movie and yet he didn’t… Too bad because it’s cleaning up at the box-office. Oh, my sister and brother-in-law made the mistake of watching this online and, no surprise, they didn’t like it. The theater is where this should be seen, with good surround sound and a full audience. The audience is the best part.

      • brian

        Those are big words coming from someone named Billy.

    • Michael

      Not into torture porn. Haven’t seen the movie. But I must say that the dude on the cover looks like a douche.

    • Kay

      Um, I hate all the torture porn films and won’t go see them. Haven’t seen Saw or Hostel or Friday the 13th part 28. I’ll take original Psycho or Silence of the Lambs, hell, even Speilberg’s Poltergeist over PA for chills that stay with you.

      • Ian

        I’m with you. I will never watch a torture porn movie, it’s clearly for the weak minded.

      • t3hdow

        To Ian:
        And yet stereotyping torture porn viewers makes you any brighter? Maybe people should start trashing you for enjoying something, and only because of a ridiculous phrase to make detractors feel better. Now THAT’S weak minded.
        If you don’t like the films, fine. But don’t dare call the fanbase stupid because you hate what they watch.
        And fyi, while I did enjoy the Saw series for a while, once the storyline got stale, I tuned out (and I thought Hostel was boring as well).
        How insulting.

    • Joe

      I’m a huge fan of scary movies and i have never once had a movie that scared the crap out of me like PA. best movie i’ve seen in years! and its even better how they did this in such short time and on a low budget…awesome movie

    • doug

      This movie’s obviously for people with active imaginations. The haters keep pointing out, “oh geee, a door opening and closing.. not scary”. but it IS scary if you can imagine that its a demon thats doing it.. and then go home and google ‘demon possession’ and find all sorts of ‘experts’ that say demons are real. THAT will keep you up at night!

    • Tommy

      If you have some sort of ADD disorder than you won’t like this show since it demands your attention. You be better off watching a Saw movie where you can text message between kills. Wonder how these people due in school and am scared that they occupy our roads with their horrible driving.

    • KFed

      I agree that gore isn’t scary. But neither is two people sitting in bed listening to loud thuds and having their sheets billowing.
      Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

  • meso soup

    Paranormal Activity was a complete let down. And yes Jeff it wasn’t scary at all. At least torture porn movie don’t pretend to be scary they know they are just about the gore. This movie thinks its scary and fails miserably.

    Skip this crap. You’ll be thankful

    • Norm

      But if you want to lose brain cells while being at the theatre go watch Saw VI or any other of the torture movies out there that are clearly targeted for morons to watch.

  • maskedavenger

    1 good scene does not make a good movie.
    I couldn’t believe all the girls screaming in the theatre – and yes only the little girls were scared……

    • Dark Dot

      Please don’t try and tell me the “good scene” was the horrible ending… Please don’t try and tell me the “good scene” was the horrible ending…

      • Julius

        Haha so true for me… my opinion on the “good” scene was the night BEFORE the ending. That was cool.

    • lostrose815

      “Only the little girls were scared”…?

      Ummm..false. When I saw it, the 4 burly men in the row in front of me were jumping and shrieking just as much as the girls. I find your comment to be very immature and sexist.

      • steve

        Get over yourself, PC-Nazi.

      • Ron

        You ever stop to think maybe the 4 burley men in front of you were sleeping and a scream startled them awake? Just saying ya know cause I myself was ready to go to sleep. if the seats were more comfortable I would have been out like a light! Maybe then i would have had a scary dream and thought the movie was scary.

  • crispy

    The acting in this movie was incredible. It really sold it. So it’s nice to see these two reaping the benefits.

  • dominic

    When I saw PA, I thought it wasn’t as scary as the trailer made it out to be. The only part that really scared me was the last 5 minutes. It really set my heart pumping. But throughout the following week after I saw the movie, it really didn’t hit me how scary other scenes actually were, until I was trying to fall asleep.

    • typeg98

      Dominic, I agree. My wife and I enjoyed the movie and it had a few moments that made us jump in our seats but the real scare came later that night when we “tried” to go to sleep. Our bedroom is set up similar to the bedroom in the movie which didn’t help the situation. We ended up having to fall asleep with the TV on the next 2 nights. We laughed about it during the day but it definitely spooked us at night. Also, we’re very devote Catholics and the premise of the movie definitely plays into our faith. Very proud of this little movie and have recomneded it to all our friends.

  • Michelle

    Just because someone thought this movie was scary doesn’t mean they are stupid (which is the impression I get from people who didn’t like the movie or didn’t find it scary). People are scared by different things. I found it scary because in real life I get a little creeped out when I hear a weird sound in my house. If I heard footsteps on the stairs when no one else was home, I would be terrified.

    • Fran Anderson

      For me, a lot of the scares came from being in the theater with my wife and thinking about how helpless I would feel if the same thing was happening to her/us.

      I can see how someone just wanting a big scare and not thinking about how things are escalating might come away disappointed.

  • Jeff W.

    Katie Featherston looks chubby now.

    • blp

      That’s what you find to comment about?? First of all….no. Second of all…..oh forget it.

    • Kelly

      Jeff W.: sad. Get a life.

    • Julius

      Mmmm, and if she were stick-thin, you’d want her boobs to get bigger, right? Sad.

  • Wanna bet…

    …these two go the way of the Blair Witch cast?

    • crispy

      Paranormal Activity has a strong Spielberg connection. And Spielberg has an uncanny knack for breaking actors into Hollywood. I suspect they’ll go far. Plus, that Micah guy is super hot.

  • ArchStanton

    It’s not Twilight or Megan Fox. I like EW’s new obsession. This is progress.

    • RA

      +1

      • RJ

        +2

    • Just me

      +3, :)

    • Kelly

      Or the god-awful TV show Glee.

  • Brian Isaacs

    This movie is entertaining and VERY creepy. People will be disappointed by EVERY movie that gets good reviews because it gets built up to levels that cannot be achieved. This was a solid film that played well in theaters. I doubt it will play as well on DVD expect maybe at a slumber party for 14 year old girls. I avoided everything about the movie until seeing it and I am glad I did. Once you know what happens, it will play differently. This was some of the most fun I have had in a theater in a LONG time. The audience reaction was as entertaining as the film. Kudos for them releasing this film. It was purchased by the studio to be remade with bigger names and a bigger budget. Thank goodness we got to see this little gem in theaters where it belonged.

  • Jess

    Would have preferred a Modern Family cover…

    • Sydney

      Modern Family sucks. I’m already tired of the stupid confessionals. Very overrated.

    • Larry

      I agree with Sydney. I’m tired of the confessionals too. Why is it that scripted shows have to become like reality shows? This is the same reason why I didn’t like The Office either.

      • M

        Modern Family is brilliant. Unfortunately, we just have to accept some people have bad taste, so you can’t ever please everyone.

  • Eternal Knight

    This movie was NOT scary in the least and any acting was minimal and got less convincing the longer the movie went on.

  • sara

    the last 10 minutes were the scariest. the rest was just so so.

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