Steven Spielberg is one of the most, if not the most, iconic movie directors in all of Western cinema, with his name synonymous with some of the best films in the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s.
The Spielberg name is now synonymous with blockbusters and crowd-pleasing wonder, with even his more dramatic films having a sense of heartwarming humanity. Thus, most wouldn’t associate him with horror, though he has quite a history with the genre, both behind the camera and in front of the TV.
Steven Spielberg wrote and arguably co-directed the ’80s horror flick Poltergeist, but his most haunting horror movie experience involved the film Paranormal Activity.
While he was just as enthusiastic about the original entry in the franchise as others were, his reasons were just as terrifying as anything on screen. Here’s the real-life horror story behind the movie that spawned a series and the director that it spooked in the process.
Despite how massive and bloated the franchise would become, the original Paranormal Activity was an independent film that cost less than a quarter of $1 million to make. It would go on to make nearly $200 million at the box office, but before that happened, it had to make the rounds at film festivals and similar circuits.
The Oren Peli-directed movie’s presence at the 2007 Screamfest Horror Film Festival would begin to generate more hype, eventually catching the eye of some very big names in the film industry.
Despite not being selected for entry at the prestigious Sundance Film Festival, Paranormal Activity was looked at by several big film companies looking to distribute it across the country.
These included the executives at DreamWorks, which was actually a subsidiary of Steven Spielberg’s Amblin. Thus, the director of Jurassic Park would himself take a look at the movie, but his experience was even scarier than the one most audiences had.
Spielberg was given a DVD copy of Paranormal Activity to watch at home, though this was long before the movie was actually given a theatrical release. In fact, it wasn’t even the final version of the film, with the one given for Spielberg’s approval being re-edited afterward.
Despite the content of the classic “found footage” film, its scariest element came for Spielberg after the credits rolled. According to the director himself, he was unable to open his bedroom after watching the movie, with the empty room’s door mysteriously locking on its own.
Though he was able to fix the issue thanks to a helpful locksmith, the incident shook him to his core.
Believing that the DVD of the movie itself was haunted by a seemingly demonic presence, Steven Spielberg took his copy and sent it back from whence it came in a trash bag.
Despite this chilling situation, the director liked the film, and its intentions to scare audiences were obviously successful.
He was at odds with the original ending, however, which saw him give the movie’s director extra money to film a new conclusion.
Said ending was one of the film’s most notable moments, and it’s all thanks to perhaps its most famous victim. Fortunately for audiences but unfortunately for Spielberg himself, Paranormal Activity had the right kind of horror to cause a long-running franchise of frights.