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Possible directors of 'Paranormal Activity 2': Several young genre maestros ... and Brian De Palma

February 24, 2010 |  7:25 pm
Para
When it comes to "Paranormal Activity," nothing should surprise us anymore. This was a movie that was shot for $10,000 and became a $100-million-plus box-office powerhouse. And it did all that with no stars and no brand pedigree -- just a brilliant "America demanded it" marketing campaign.

So the fact that a number of emerging genre directors are being considered to direct the second picture in the haunted-house franchise (tentatively titled "Paranormal Activity 2" but probably soon to be renamed)  makes perfect sense.

More eerie, though, is that the studio is now seriously considering a trio of more experienced directors. And one of them is a person who'll really get your weird-o-meter spinning: Brian De Palma.

Yes, that Brian De Palma.

The iconic auteur behind "Scarface" and "Dressed to Kill" -- as well as more mainstream films like "The Untouchables"' and "Mission: Impossible" -- would be a strange choice to say the least. No doubt he'll bring art-house credibility and visual flair. But De Palma is known for shoots that don't always go for the lowest common denominator at the multiplex, that aren't always cheap (though his last movie, the Iraq film "Redacted," was a lower-budgeted affair) and a shooting schedule that doesn't scream quick turnaround.

(And if you think De Palma would be a bizarre choice, consider this: At one point, Akiva Goldsman, a quintessential Hollywood insider, was also in the mix to direct the film. Goldsman is the Oscar-winning writer "A Beautiful Mind." He's also the writer and/or producer on a host of big-budget studio movies, including "The Da Vinci Code" and "I Am Legend." He won't direct the film in the end, but the fact that Paramount and the movie's producers were considering him suggests they want to give the film a different kind of gloss than the no-budget, unknown-driven first picture.)

Of course there's a logic to that sort of thinking: Oren Peli's original "Paranormal," which had few auterish touches, could, in the wrong hands, yield a low-end sequel (think "Blair Witch 2: Book of Secrets"). If nothing else, De Palma would elevate the level of filmmaking from what a less experienced director might do.

As for the young genre directors, they include a more Peli-ish group of freshmen and sophomores: Brad Anderson (director of a Woody Harrelson-Emily Mortimer thriller a few years back called "Transsiberian") and Greg McLean (a writer and director on an Australian horror movie called "Wolf Creek" -- another low-budget title that made a nice multiple, $16 million in U.S. box office).

All this is happening because "Saw VI" director Kevin Greutert won't direct the new "Paranormal." The horror filmmaker had been all set to sit in that tall chair until Lionsgate decided to exercise its option on him for the next "Saw" film (a direct competitor at the box office with "Paranormal"), pulling him off "Paranormal 2."

Whatever producers and Paramount executives decide to do, they'll probably want to do it quickly. The movie doesn't yet have a director or actors (they'd need at least one new one, given how the first ended), and, last we heard, the script was still being worked on. But it does have a release date -- exactly eight months from now, on Oct. 22, just before Halloween. This is where a little supernatural magic might come in handy.

--Steven Zeitchik

Photo: Paranormal Activity. Credit: Paramount Pictures

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