Oren Peli Interview: 'Chernobyl Diaries' & 'Paranormal Activity' Creator On What Makes A Good Horror Film



The man behind the Paranormal Activity phenomena brought back old-fashion scares with his found footage horror hit. The found footage technique has been replicated by Hollywood including producing 3 more Paranormal Activity every year since. Peli and his team are currently working on the 4th film in the franchise reportedly starring a Latino cast. When asked to confirm the diverse cast, Peli preferred to keep mum on the project as he does with any future work. Peli is also responsible for the low-budget horror film Insidious which went on become the most profitable film in 2011.

Oren Peli returns to the horror genre as a producer and writer in CHERNOBYL DIARIES, a traditional narrative with his signature style. Peli opted not to direct the new horror thriller, instead giving the directorial duties to veteran Visual Effects director Brad Parker (Fight Club, xXx). Based on a story by Peli, a group of young travelers sign up for an "extreme" tour of the Ukraining city of Pripyat, the city next to the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. Despite being warned not to enter, the group and their tour guide take the risk and horror ensues. Watch the trailer.

Oren Peli became inspired to write the story one day after surfing the internet and discovering photos and videos on Youtube of individuals documenting their travels to Pripyat, the city abandoned by workers of the Chernobyl nuclear plant. The "extreme" tourism is real and many videos can be found on Youtube.

Early on in pre-production, Peli and his producing team thought about visiting the city themselves and possibly shooting on location in Pripyat. Many people assured them the radiation levels are safe.  That's until they spoke to a radiation specialist who warned Geiger counters will not detect all. If dirt is kicked up from walking on the ground for example, radiation could be released. Suffice to say they decided against shooting the film there.

When it comes to scary films, Oren Peli prefers thrillers opposed to slasher films like the Saw movies While he can appreciate those type of horror flicks, Peli says he'd rather create tension and build up the "anticipation" of the scare, similar to sitting in the dentist's chair waiting for that painful shot to the mouth. He says the wait is much more painful than the actual injection. According to the CHERNOBYL DIARIES producer/writer, it's much more important to build characters the audiences cares for so they become invested in what happens to the actors.

What film scares the Paranormal Activity creator? Peli called out The Exorcist as his most frightening experience at the movies. Other favorites include Rosemary's Baby, The Sixth Sense, and the biggest influence for Paranormal Activity - The Blair Witch Project.  

CHERNOBYL DIARIES is in movie theatres May 25, 2025.

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