A glimpse at the 'Chernobyl Diaries'
Interviews with director Brad Parker and writer/producer, 'Paranormal Activity' creator Oren Peli
Published: Monday, May 21, 2012
Updated: Monday, May 21, 2012 18:05
BP: We did it all the time. For the most part, they really liked it. Generally, you’ll go a second or a third time, you’re not going to get everything in the first take. So it’s not like that initial scare will end up in the film; sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn’t. But what it does do, is it gives the actors a sense of “OK, this is what I really did in the moment, so I can expand on that and make it better,” so they absolutely loved it.
There was one actor in our group who frequently got so terrified that that person would really be traumatized at the end of a scene. So we had to be very careful with one of these actors in particular because they were genuinely terrified through and through. This person wanted warnings ahead of time, but we were moving so fast that there were occasions where we’d forget, or I’d get so excited, or so into the moment, that I’d run out onto the set myself and scare them, and I’d forget that one of the actors could really end up having a heart attack, so to speak.
DC: Finally, what’s next for you after “Chernobyl Diaries”?
BP: I’m developing a film with Bad Robot [J.J. Abrams’ production company] right now. Matt Reeves, the director of “Let Me In,” will produce, and the amazing Michael Gilio is writing it. I can’t really say anything about the project other than that it’s awesome and I’m really excited, and I can’t wait to talk about it at some point in the future.
Next up was "Chernobyl Diaries" writer and producer Oren Peli, who also created the "Paranormal Activity" series.
The Daily Campus: How does “Chernobyl Diaries” compare to your earlier work with the “Paranormal Activity” series?
Oren Peli: Well, it’s a different film in a few ways. First of all, it’s not found-footage. Even though we have parts of the film in an actual documentary-like style, and we have a very improvisational style of dialogue, it’s not found-footage. And in “Paranormal Activity,” with the house, it’s a very familiar place, it’s like you’re in your own bedroom, but in “Chernobyl Diaries,” here we are in the most unfamiliar, foreign place you can be, you’re in a foreign country in a desolate town that’s been abandoned, and you have the issue of radiation and all these other dangers, so those are the main differences.
As for what they have in common, they touch upon a similar kind of fear where, in “Paranormal Activity” you’re in fear of an unknown entity, whether it’s alien or something, you don’t know what it is, where it’s from, what it wants from you, and how you’re supposed to defend yourself against it; in “Chernobyl Diaries,” you are stranded in a town and in the middle of the night you’re hearing screams that could be human or inhuman, and again you don’t know what it is, what it wants from you, or how you can defend yourself. I think the core, primal fear in each film is similar.
DC: How did you decide upon Chernobyl as the scene of a horror film?
OP: Well, the way it actually worked wasn’t that I was looking for an idea like Chernobyl as the scene of a horror film, but the other way around. I was basically just browsing the Internet one day, and I stumbled upon some websites that had photo-blogs and travel blogs of people who went to Chernobyl and Pripyat and took pictures and video, and I just kept exploring and researching and I found a lot of videos on Youtube and thought that the whole concept was absolutely fascinating. And then I thought, “Well, maybe this would be a great setting for a horror movie.”
DC: What kind of scares might audiences get from the film? Chernobyl is famous for nuclear fallout…
OP: Not to give too much away from the plot, I will say structurally that it’s very similar to my other movies. It’s a more intellectual film so it doesn’t rely on gore; there’s a little bit of gore, but that’s not what the movie is about. I think there’s gonna be a variety of scares.
There are some scares like jump scares [a fast scare in a horror film meant to startle the audience] but I think the main thing that people will respond to will be the tension, and the paranoia, and the feeling of loss of control and helplessness when you find yourself way over your head in foreign situations and you don’t know what’s hunting you and how to protect yourself against it.
DC: What was your favorite part of the “Chernobyl Diaries” experience, making the film?
OP: You know, it’s really hard to pick one part because we had so much fun during the whole process developing the film and shooting the film, except that it was really, really cold in Europe. That was the only problem. We had a great crew, and we had a great cast, so it was really an overall great experience.
DC: “Paranormal Activity” sat on a shelf for two years before its huge success in theaters. What was it like for the film to go from underground to grossing $100 million dollars almost overnight, and then for it to turn into one of the most successful horror franchises in recent history?
OP: Well, it was a very bizarre period, because what actually happened was we had a deal with Dreamworks and they were planning to release the movie. Everything was on track for the movie to be released in the fall of 2008. But then, Dreamworks, who had a distribution arrangement with Paramount, ended up having a divorce with them, so the movie went to Paramount.