Found-footage horror has always been pretty hit-or-miss: for every Blair Witch Project there’s a Blair Witch. Most of the time, it’s the low-budget efforts that succeed in utilizing the style’s greatest strengths, so it’s not surprising that Paranormal Activity, made on a budget of $15,000, became a global phenomenon. The sequels are what they are, but the first movie is still chilling to this day, in part because of its two leads, who act in such a way that it’s easy to believe it’s all real.

Director Oren Peli recently unearthed a bunch of audition tapes for Katie Featherston (Katie) and Micah Sloat (Micah), who weren’t even given a title or a script for their tryouts, just a brief description and some questions read to them by someone offscreen. The auditions are entirely ad-libbed, the actors coming up with plot material right on the spot to answer questions as if they were being interviewed for a documentary (which, in universe, is what Paranormal Activity is supposed to be).

Besides the inarguable skill of the actors, my favorite part of this is the plot description each of them got, which contains the line: “Not a cheesy teen slasher movie (although some bad stuff may happen)” Spoiler alert: a lot of bad stuff happens. Both actors first perform alone for their first audition, and then when they were called back for a second go at it they’re put together on a couch to further test their chemistry and how well they worked with each other.

Peli also posted an extended version of the tapes, which contains a little more footage of the audition process.

You can tell that a ton of what these two make up on the spot ends up in the final film, which is also pretty cool. It’s the naturalistic acting of Featherston and Sloat that makes this movie as chilling as it is.

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