Israeli Director’s Paranormal Hit

On a budget: Oren Peli’s directorial debut, “Paranormal Activity,” is already drawing comparisons to the low-budget cult hit “The Blair Witch Project.”
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On a budget: Oren Peli’s directorial debut, “Paranormal Activity,” is already drawing comparisons to the low-budget cult hit “The Blair Witch Project.”

By Nathan Burstein

Published October 14, 2009, issue of October 23, 2009.
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A horror film shot inside the home of first-time Israeli director Oren Peli has become a surprise smash hit at the box office.

“Paranormal Activity” landed at fifth place at the box office between October 9 and October 11, raking in $7.1 million over the three-day span and drawing comparisons to the 1999 horror sensation “The Blair Witch Project,” also a low-budget surprise hit.

At best a modest result for a studio release, the opening weekend numbers have already made the movie a blockbuster among independent films.

Produced on a budget of roughly $11,000, “Paranormal Activity” tells the story of a couple trying to document the presence of a supernatural force in their San Diego home.

Despite lacking a formal trailer or marketing campaign, the movie generated significant Internet buzz after it was shown on college campuses during midnight screenings.

The film has since received a range of reviews, with Entertainment Weekly awarding it an A- and The New York Times describing it as having an “ingenious, if not terribly original, conceit” that “looks and sounds terrible.”

Opening in fewer than 200 theaters, “Paranormal Activity” earned a record for a limited-release film. Paramount Pictures and DreamWorks, which acquired the film last year, plan to expand it to additional theaters in coming weeks.

Peli, who immigrated to the United States as a teenager, is already at work on his next project: a modestly budgeted thriller about a trio of teenagers who visit Area 51, the section of southern Nevada where conspiracy theorists claim aliens have landed.

In a YouTube video released September 26, Peli expresses gratitude to the film’s early advocates. “I just wanted to take this opportunity,” he says in accented English, “to speak directly to our fans and just thank you all for the amazing support…. It’s just been totally overwhelming.”


Watch the trailer of “Paranormal Activity”


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