As the fictional father of two young girls haunted by a violent ghost in “Paranormal Activity 3,” actor Chris Smith spent a lot of his time on the movie set in scenes with very little light. It wasn’t the only time Smith was kept in the dark.
“When I auditioned for the movie I didn’t know what I was auditioning for,” Smith told me during a phone interview to promote the DVD/Blue-ray release of the sequel on Jan. 24. “I was just asked to show up and not prepare anything. After a few auditions they started telling me more about the movie. When I found out it was ‘Paranormal’ it was very exciting.”
Although it is the third installment of the franchise, “Paranormal Activity 3” is actually a prequel to the first two movies. It begins when the adult sisters haunted in the first two films are children.
During our interview, Smith talked about some of the bold choices directors Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman made to complete the trilogy and why he thinks the “Paranormal Activity” franchise has been so successful over the last five years.
How did it feel coming into this franchise knowing how popular the first two movies were?
It was really exciting. It sort of took the pressure off knowing that the franchise was already such a big success. I knew I was in good hands especially after I met everyone involved.
Had you seen the directors’ last film, “Catfish?”
Yeah, I did see it. [Directors] Henry [Joost] and Ariel [Schulman] are actually buddies of mine from New York. A couple of years ago they told me about “Catfish.” Obviously, my interest was peaked. It was amazing what they captured. They’re very good at building tension. I think that was really well utilized in “Paranormal.”
Something I really liked in this new “Paranormal” movie was that instead of having stationary cameras like in the first two, there is a camera panning back and forth, which makes it more intense because the frame of the footage is always changing and you never know what’s coming.
Yeah, when they told me they were going to do that I thought it was such a great idea. It was such an innovative, thoughtful way of moving the franchise forward.
How did you feel playing the role of a father? Did it come natural?
Well, I have a lot of younger cousins, so I’m really like the fun older cousin. That’s one of my roles in the family I take a lot of pride in, so hanging out with the girls in “Paranormal” was really fun for me.
Something I found interesting in this new installment was that the entity that is haunting the family actually causes physical pain to one of the little girls. I thought that was a pretty gutsy move in the script.
Yeah, I don’t think the audience reacted negatively to it. If anything, it was an exiting and maybe even scarier part of the movie. I mean, kids can get hurt sometimes, so it made it more realistic.
What do you think it is about the “Paranormal Activity” franchise that keeps audiences wanting more?
It’s this notion that something bad can happen at night in this big house. The filmmakers have been really clever about it, especially with a lower budget than most films. They’ve really been able to find new subtle ways of scaring people.
Since finishing this movie, has your sleeping pattern been affected in any way?
(Laughs) No, not at all. I still can’t sleep. The making of the movie was actually not scary at all. Watching the movie was also not scary for me because I experienced almost every frame in real life. I always knew what was coming.
What scared you as a kid?
I would have recurring nightmares about spiders. I really related to this franchise because when I was alone in a dark room as a kid my imagination would runs wild. Before you know it I was running up the stairs and hiding in my tent.
Part 4 of this franchise is coming in October. Where do we go from here? I mean, what else can you do with this series?
I don’t know. I’m very excited to see what they do. I really have no idea. I’m sure they’ll think of something. They’ve done it before, so I’m sure they’ll do it again.