Paranormal Activity 2 creeps into your house February 8th, via DVD and Blu-Ray. And I'm pretty excited to own a copy of the follow-up to the found footage phenom. Personally, I thought PA2 was one of those rare instances where the sequel was better than the original. And I just had the chance to chat with Molly Ephraim, the actress who plays Ali, the film's remarkably well-adjusted teenage daughter. Well-adjusted, that is, until the end. I talked to her about cast chemistry, DVD extras, and the chances of a Paranormal Activity 3. If you haven't seen PA2, the following interview may contain spoilers, so read on, after the jump, at your own risk.
Were you a fan of the first Paranormal Activity before being cast in the sequel?
No. I was scared to see it. I am a scaredy cat. But now, given my experience in the world of horror movies, I am slowly getting my feet wet, and trying to toughen up and watch some. I actually watched the first one in my hotel room after I was cast. I watched it during the day, with all the lights on. I made it through, watching it from a professional aspect. I watched the unrated version of the sequel, the one coming out on DVD February 8th. Even though I'm in it, and I remember being there, filming it, I started noticing all these weird noises around me... I thought I heard weird knocking. I am staying at a friend's house, but I'm in the movie! I know what happens. I think I need more experience with horror movies. I'm at Casper speed right now.
In the film, the chemistry between the actors is very natural. How much was scripted, and how much was left to improv?
It really depended on the scene. We were always able to improvise every single scene. I would say 98% was improvised. We had a framework for every scene, and dialogue, but we were always given the option to play around and do what felt natural. We had a good amount of time to work together as a cast - as a "family." We did a lot of shooting early on, stuff that wasn't for the movie, just hanging out, telling stories, improv stuff... just to get that family feel.
It almost felt like you guys were all living in the house together.
Sprague Grayden, who plays my stepmom, lives in LA, but she and I actually went on a mini-vacation together, so I had some time to hang out with her, do some stepmother/daughter bonding. Brian Boland, who played my father, lives in Chicago, but when we filmed we were staying at the same hotel, so we hung out a lot, went to dinner, went on little excursions.
People always say never to work with animals or babies - they are impossible to direct and are always cute - and you had both. Was it difficult working with them?
Not really. What we were going for was naturalism. You can't direct a baby, so the end result was natural. A baby is going to cry, or be a total ham. So if the scene took a different direction, we would shoot that too. We always kept the cameras running.
When a shot was being seen from your point of view, how much of the time were you actually holding the camera?
For a lot of it, I was carrying the camera. Sometimes Mike Simmonds, our director of photography, would be trailing me, or he would be actually holding the camera. My camera work is a little bit shakier than his [laughs]. They made me read the camera instruction book. They said I was making everyone nauseous.
Did it whet your appetite for directing?
I don't know. It was more of a great acting experience. I don't know of any other studio that would let their actors play around so much, improvise, give our own ideas.
The DVD only includes one deleted scene. Does that mean you guys used most of what you shot?
No. We shot a lot of footage, even if it was just an exercise, getting us to interact. But most of it wasn't relevant to the story we ended up with. It was kind of "choose your own adventure." The only way to really see if what we were shooting was working was to piece it all together. There is some "found footage" out in the world; who knows if anyone will ever find it.
What do you know about the third Paranormal Activity?
I know nothing! The [producers] are tight-lipped! I would be the last to know. I've not heard anything yet. I haven't been "notified" as to whether or not my character will return.
As one of the few survivors, where do you see your character going?
What we don't see on camera is that, at the end of the movie, Ali comes home to find her parents brutally murdered and her baby brother missing. I don't think it would be assuming too much that she would be in an... "emotional state." It won't be a feel-good film if [my character] is in it, I can tell you that much.