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How to Write A Paranormal Activity Movie in 10 Easy Steps

How to Write A Paranormal Activity Movie in 10 Easy Steps

Holy cannoli, Monster-minds. We have intercepted an email between Paranormal Activity creator Oren Peli and the weirdoes over at Paramount, and it details EXACTLY how to make these movies... forever and ever and ever. In this MindHut exclusive, we're revealing the blueprints to writing the most low-budge scary movies ever—and that's a seriously competitive category! Here are the spilled beans.


From: "Oren Peli"

Subject: My Secret Formula

Hey Paramount,

It's Oren! Remember me? I started the Paranormal Activity series. Well, I  overheard you guys were having trouble coming up with ways to keep the franchise fresh for audiences. I think I know your problem: it was never fresh (sorry I didn't mention that in the pitch meeting—my bad). These "films" are an hour and a half of schlocky scares designed to distract the audience from the fact that 80% of the movie is essentially a real estate ad. But I know you guys love raking in the cash while spending next-to-nothing so I put together my step-by-step process below. Good luck!

Step 1: Introduce a family or couple that is obsessed with carrying around cameras. Be sure to have said obsession criticized by other characters so the audience understands that the main characters are undiagnosed narcissists.

Step 2: Have at least one character suspect something strange is happening in the house and does the only logical thing: set up a BUTTLOAD more cameras.

Step 3: That night, something completely ordinary happens (a door slowly closes, a curtain moves, you know, boring stuff). Be sure to surround each "activity" with two minutes of silence for dramatic effect, or just to drag the movie out longer.

Step 4: The next day have your characters watch the footage we just saw (and also, record themselves watching recorded footage, of course). Have them ask each other back and forth: "What was that?" "What is that?" "What could have done that?" "What do you think that is?" Have the obligatory non-believer character throw in a lazy explanation. If you can't think of one, just say "wind."

IMPORTANT: Repeat steps 3 and 4 about a dozen times. Again, it's really difficult to stretch these things out for 90 minutes so make sure you get lots of shots of people sleeping in night vision. Have a cat wander around at night too, if you have the budget for one.

Step 5: Don't forget throw in a loud BOOM and have a chandelier swinging for good measure. Eventually, have something fall from the ceiling. The chandelier, a knife, pots, doesn't matter—demons love gravity, so let yours have at it.

Step 6: Have your main character do some research into black magic, demons, possession, witches, or ghost farts. They discover the same information that's been repeated in every Paranormal Activity movie before this but, remember: the audience has probably forgotten since last year.

Step 7: Have your main character desperately try to show the evidence to the non-believer character, but always right when they are cooking dinner or about to go out on a date. That way they won't pay any attention.

Side note: Parents make great non-believers because they are busy with work to afford the invariably luxurious home (it's well documented that demons only bother to haunt people making 250K/year or higher. They are HUGE snobs).

Step 8: Finally, something entertaining happens at around minute 81. When no one is around, a character is levitated and dragged around by an invisible demon with an absolutely terrifying name like... Toby. Then, a slamming door locks the person out of the house.

DON'T FORGET: No one puts down their cameras for anything. Narcissism > Terror.

Step 9: Have the main character beg the non-believer to leave the house/run/get help. Non-believer is finally starting to suspect something strange is going on but will still do absolutely nothing, because demons can really sink a house's value.

Optional: If you have an extra $40 to pay an actor, bring in a psychic, ghost hunter, or superstitious maid to confirm there is an "evil presence." Then have them leave after having offered no advice other than "stop getting haunted so much, guys."

Step 10: At last, everyone is killed off in the final few minutes with our main character running around shouting their names. He or she will turn to see some monster/group of witches charge the camera, maybe with demonic faces (that'll depend on whether you can splurge on a computer graphics dude). Fade to black. Cross your fingers and hope no one realizes it's the same ending they've seen since The Blair Witch Project. So far so good!


Tags: movies, horror, emails, scary movies, paranormal activity

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Becky Ferreira

Becky Ferreira is a writer, performer, and raptor based in New York.

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