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The DVD Steven Spielberg believed was haunted


Whilst Paranormal Activity certainly does not stand up as a classic of the horror genre, there’s no denying the film’s cultural pertinence, forcing a brand new focus on hand-held paranormal terror onto the big screen. Thriving off particular audience reactions in this groundbreaking trailer, Oren Peli’s Paranormal Activity unusually owes its existence to William Friedkin’s The Exorcist that utilised viral marketing and the fear and repulsion the film caused. 

Once the horror genre had been slapped across the face by the financial success of Paranormal Activity there was no going back. Cropping out from the darkest corners of small-town America and cinema worldwide came low-budget replicas and rip-offs, each featuring shaky camcorders and dodgy storylines. 

A small independent project, Paranormal Activity was screened at 2007’s Screamfest Horror Film Festival where director Oren Peli attempted to find a distributor by sending out DVDs of the film to as many industry professionals as they could. Eventually, the film made its way to Miramax Films Senior Executive Jason Blum who saw potential in the low-budget flick. As well as Blum, the DVD also made its way to Dreamworks and Steven Spielberg who had an altogether more surreal experience with the film. 

Taking a copy of the DVD home to his estate in Pacific Palisades in 2008, Steven Spielberg set in for a horror fest, and after enjoying the film experienced a string of odd occurrences in his house. Not long after the film finished, Spielberg discovered his bedroom door was locked from the inside despite the house being completely empty, instantly freaking out the iconic director behind such classics as Jaws and Close Encounters of the Third Kind. According to reports from The L.A. Times, Spielberg then hired a locksmith and removed the disc from his home, delivering it back to Dreamworks in a garbage bag. 

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Despite gifting it back to the production house in a black bin liner, Spielberg liked the film, though it was later picked up by Paramount who went on to find great success from its cultural adoration. Costing a total of $230,000 including production and marketing, the original Paranormal Activity went on to earn over $193.4 million at the box office.

With viral marketing a key component of the film’s success, many thought that Steven Spielberg’s compelling story was merely part of the advertising campaign to drum up excitement, though this has never been confirmed. 

Resurrected from the grave after the terrifyingly poor Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension, horror producers, Blumhouse, are set to release the seventh instalment of the series, Paranormal Activity: Next of Kin, in late 2021, exclusively on Paramount+. Treated to a brand new trailer, the latest in the long-serving franchise is set to take place in an Amish-like community, centred specifically around a documentarian Margot (Emily Bader) shooting a film about the rural lifestyle.