With Paranormal Activity, the comparisons to The Blair Witch Project films just keep on coming. Like Blair Witch, 2009′s Little Film That Could was made on a shoestring budget and cleverly marketed into mega-success. Now, Paramount has hired a writer and director for the film currently called Paranormal Activity 2. Just as when Artisan made the Blair Witch sequel, the studio is keeping original Paranormal creators Jason Blum and Oren Peli on the payroll as producers, but is giving the reigns to different talent. In this case, said talent happens to be screenwriter Michael R. Perry and director Kevin Greutert, the latter of which you may recall directed the most recent Saw film.
THR reports on the new deal and says that the film is still set to be released on October 22, where it will compete with Saw VII. Paramount isn’t saying anything about the plot or title of the new film, but Peli has gone to bat for the new guys. ” These guys get it, and the fans won’t be disappointed,” he said. The big irony here is that Paranormal Activity‘s success flew right in the face of Greutert’s Saw VI, and the ‘showdown’ between the two played some part in the green light for this sequel. Not that the director is likely to be blamed for Saw‘s recent underperformance — how much longer can that series sustain itself?
Greutert’s experience with the Saw films goes way beyond directing the most recent film; he edited the first five films in the series, as well as Repo! The Genetic Opera. So that’s a good sign. If Paramount lets Perry and Greutert do their work, this one could work out I’ll be curious to see how this one works out. Some of the issues with the second Blair Witch film (which was directed by the very competent documentary filmmaker Joe Berlinger) reportedly came when Artisan mucked about with the edit.
What’s the real lesson to keep in mind here? That Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 made $46m worldwide, and that was with only Artisan, a small outfit compared to Paramount, behind it. Based on the curiosity factor alone, Paramount will probably make money on this one. Lots of it. How many of the people who made the first film a hit really know the name Oren Peli? Not a lot, I’d wager.
(Paramount will also distribute Peli’s Area 51, which he shot last fall.)