When Hispanic actress Vivis Colombetti (know simply as VIVIS; yes one name, yes all caps) found out about the character she would be portraying in the film “Paranormal Activity 2,” a prequel of the original 2007 thriller, she knew exactly where she would find inspiration for the role.
In the film, VIVIS plays Martine, a nanny and housekeeper who tries to warn the family she works for about the evil spirits inhabiting their home. To protect them from the entities, Martine uses the same traditional healing and cleansing practices VIVIS remembers her grandmother doing when she was a little girl.
“My grandmother was sort of a curandera-type person,” Vivis told me during a phone interview to discuss the DVD and Blu-ray release of “Paranormal Activity 2” on Feb. 8. “She cured us with nothing but herbs. We didn’t use medicine. We weren’t raised that way.”
During our interview, VIVIS, who has starred in such films as “Gas, Food, Lodging,” “Mi Vida Loca,” and “Rent,” talked about how her grandmother’s cultural beliefs have influenced her life and what she thinks about the always-present spirit world.
The first time I saw this movie in the theater, I thought, “Oh, no. Bad things are going to happen to this family because they’re not listening to the Latina!”
I know, I was so devastated! She knows there is something horrible in the house and she keeps warning them. That’s why she keeps cleansing the house. She burns things to send away evil spirits. In one of the early treatments of the script, it read that Martine had left behind all kinds of weird paraphernalia. But I thought, “She would never leave anything behind.” All of the pieces she carries around with her are very dear to her. Later, they changed [the script] to make Martine a sort of savior.
What other kinds of things do you remember your grandmother doing as she practiced traditional healing?
She would give us lots of teas and she did a lot of cleansings in her own way. That was very close to me. We would get up in the morning and sweep the porch. It wasn’t about sweeping the dirt, it was about sweeping away any of the negative spirits coming close to the home. That was something done in the Aztec culture. I still do it. Sometimes I don’t even notice that I am doing it because it’s part of my tradition.
Is this something you practice today? I mean, if you get a cold will you go to the pharmacy and get some Tylenol?
No, I’ll drink teas. I’m still not a medicine person. I have a bunch of sage in my home that I burn. I carry beads with me. I strongly believe in this. It’s not something I’ve made up. It’s part of who I am. Martine has a lot of VIVIS and VIVIS has a lot of Martine in her.
What do you think it is about these first two “Paranormal Activity” movies to make them so sucessful?
It’s so suspenseful and we don’t know what’s going to happen. People are so used to slasher movies and wham and bam in your face 3-D, but these feel very real. I think everyone has had some kind of paranormal activity experience. I know I constantly do.
Really? Do these experiences frighten you?
I’m not afraid. I see it for what it is. I just go my merry way. I think the spirit world is very much a part of ours. I do believe spirits are everywhere – either trying to protect us or trying to get us to hurt each other in some way.
We don’t really get a chance to see what happens to your character at the end of “Paranormal Activity 2.” What do you hope happens to her?
Well, we know she lives. We weren’t sure if that was going to happen. What I hope happens is that she comes back and rescues the baby. Wherever this entity has taken it, it’s not for anything good. When we watch this possessed woman walk away with this child, I think it’s one of the most frightening things to see.