Last Wednesday, Paramount Pictures released the second trailer for the upcoming Paranormal Activity prequel, Paranormal Activity 3, in which audiences get a more detailed look at some of the scares they will see in the film. That same evening, Catfish filmmakers Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman flew down to Austin, Texas, to introduce a secret screening of their latest film at Fantastic Fest, one of the country’s premier genre festivals. Interestingly, it turned out that very little of what’s in that second trailer actually appears in the finished film – or according to them, almost finished film. Although this actually seems like an interesting choice since it means that curious viewers will still be surprised when they sit down to watch the film on its October 21, 2011 opening day, it certainly indicates that Joost and Schulman, along with their collaborators, created more creepy scenarios than the film can possibly contain. (Or, at the very least, there might be a wealth of deleted scenes, or even an alternate cut, when time comes to release the film on home video.)
After a particularly sleepless night, Movies.com sat down with the duo on Thursday morning to talk about Paranormal Activity 3, where they discussed some of the differences – and the reason for those differences – between the trailer and the final film. Additionally, they offered a few thoughts about what the future of the series might be. (Look for a more in-depth discussion with Joost and Schulman about the film in weeks to come.)
Movies.com: Obviously some of the things that are in the second theatrical trailer are not in the movie. How final is this version of the film?
Henry Joost: It’s close. We’re definitely going to make some changes, and there are definitely some changes that we have made since we have that cut was made for this screening, and also that I think we’re going to make based on the screening last night. But it’s close; we don’t have very much time, because the movie comes out very soon. But there’s a lot of sound stuff, and there will be some other changes, I think.
Ariel Schulman: There will be stuff, though, that’s in that trailer that doesn’t make the cut. We shot a lot of scares this summer, and then just basically, [we had] to look at all of them and only use what applies directly to the story – which is a shame. But the stuff that’s in the trailer is still sort of part of the movie; it’s like it really did happen, but it was like one of the characters’ nightmares.
Movies.com: How much of that decision-making process was about what matches with the series’ existing mythology?
Joost: There were some really fantastic things that we threw out for that reason. I mean, you shoot these things and they’re great as standalone pieces, but when you cut them into the movie, it’s like, the structure of the film isn’t supported any more. [But] decisions like that aren’t that tough for us because of having made a doc, where you’re throwing out 99 percent of your footage or something. So throwing stuff out for us is just part of the process. But I’m glad some of those things are in the trailer just because they’re so cool.
Schulman: Especially, there’s a great shot in the trailer where Jessica Brown jumps off of the ledge. There’s a pretty arresting image of the little girl [who plays] Kristi just diving off of the second story of the house–
Joost: And then running up the stairs and being fine.
Schulman: I was really happy to see it in the trailer, because that means she gets to see it because she’s not old enough to see the movie, which is really funny and cute.
Movies.com: Does the script give you most of the scenarios, or do you guys brainstorm and come up with set pieces based strictly on what ideas you might think are scary?
Joost: It’s very much more like the second way you describe it. There’s powerhouse brainstormers on this movie, from Akiva Goldsman to Adam Goodman to the writer, Chris [Landon], but it’s basically meetings where you sit around and go, okay, what can we do that’s really unsettling? Or, what’s your childhood nightmare? Like having your bed, which is the safest place, get torn away. Or being lifted by your hair, which is something we’ve never - probably any of us - have experienced but we would not like to try that. But our collaboration with Chris Landon was really great, because we would come up with stuff, we would come up with kind of a vague idea, and then he would make it specific, or vice versa, and we had this great relationship where we would be calling and texting all of the time, like, look, I’ve got an idea for something, and describe it in the loosest possible way – something like this. And then the next day he would come in and say, okay, I’ve got it, the camera pans over and the little ghost is standing there and then it pans and it’s gone. Just that kind of stuff for us was the best collaboration on the movie.
Movies.com: Was the plan to make a film that stood alone, one that just really completed this particular story, or were you trying to introduce the possibility of future sequels?
Joost: I mean, everybody, including us, wants this story to keep going, and to tell this story. And I think that the possibilities after this film are kind of endless. It’s broadened out so much in this film, and it’s become a lot more specific. Which I think is great. It could go forward or back.
Schulman: it doesn’t even have to go back in time – it could go back or forward. Did you ever see the English documentary series 7 Up? Basically every seven years this documentary crew catches up with the same people and makes a new, feature-length film about this group of people. So it kind of feels like that, because it’s intended to be a documentary about this family and their history, so theoretically any direction you go, it’s still going on. Like it really never stops. And Katie is still on the loose.
Joost: She’s out there somewhere, with a baby.