Chernobyl Diaries quad posterAs the Paranormal Activity series continues its annual Hallowe’en tradition with the release of the fourth film last week, and with the long awaited Area 51 due out next year Oren Peli is making quite a name for himself within the horror community.

With Chernobyl Diaries out on DVD today, we caught up with the writer/producer about the film, its location and why he feels the horror blend of Eastern Europe and young, attractive American tourists fits so well.

How did the Chernobyl Diaries come about? Did the idea stem from you hearing about similar adventure tours? 

Exactly. I saw photo blogs and videos from people who visited Pripyat and I became fascinated with the location. I thought that the eerie setting and the unique history of the location would make a perfect place to set up a scary horror movie.

Yeah, and location is obviously key in this film. How did you find it? I assume it wasn’t actually Chernobyl? 

Unfortunately, we were not allowed to film in the actual location so we had to find substitute locations. We searched in many countries and found locations in Serbia and Hungary that were very similar. Specifically, a decommissioned soviet air force base in Hungary that was built around the same time Pripyat was, and abandoned in the mid-80s, around the same time Pripyat was abandoned. It had similar architecture and level of decay. We also relied on CGI and digital set-extensions to augment the locations to make them look authentic.

Why do you feel that Eastern Europe and young American tourists has been a match made in heaven for horror films? 

I guess it’s probably do to the isolation and lack of access to Eastern Europe before the fall of the iron curtain, I think there’s some inherent curiosity about that region. Because the west hasn’t been exposed to Eastern European media there’s a sense of exploration of a “new world” that’s both fascinating but also foreign.

Were you inspired by any past ‘nuclear fallout’ horror films when making this project? 

I don’t think so, at least not consciously. I haven’t seen The Hills Have Eyes, and even-though the movie indeed takes place in nuclear fallout setting, I don’t think of it primarily as that kind of a film. To me in its core, it’s about the feeling of being abandoned in a foreign and dangerous environment and wondering what are the dangerous around you, seen and unseen, and how to survive the situation. The radiation is just a bonus!

Paranormal Activity was your first big hit. How do you assess the impact that the film has had on the industry in terms of the flood of found footage films that have followed since? 

I think that there was already a surge of found footage films in the works around that time. Cloverfield just came out, and there are other films in development. We were there at the right place at the right time. But, I will admit that the success of Paranormal probably had something to do with the surge of found-footage and low-budget horror films.

Did you ever imagine the franchise would make it to a fourth film? 

Absolutely not! I was just ecstatic to have the first one release. Every time we release another installment and it does well, I’m amazed and thankful for the fans. 

The found footage genre seems to be wearing thin with film critics at the moment. What do you think of the view that found footage is coming to the end of its life-cycle? 

I have no idea. Some found-footage movies are still doing well. Chronicle was both critically acclaimed and did well in the box office. I think it depends on the individual movie.

Halloween is coming up and many will be scheduling their own horror movie nights. Do you have a favourite horror film or franchise?

The movies that scared me the most were The Exorcist, The Blair Witch Project, Rosemary’s Baby, The Sixth Sense and The Others.

Having been responsible for one of the biggest horror franchises of recent times, what do you make of the state of modern horror? With the climate of remakes, do you think horror cinema is in a good place? 

I don’t know I can make a categorical statement about horror. There are all sorts of movies being released, expensive stylistic horror, low-budget, found-footage, original remakes, etc. I will say that personally, I’m not a huge fan of remakes. If a movie was done well the first time around, than maybe it should be left alone.

Chernobyl Diaries is out on DVD today.

Chernobyl Diaries is out on DVD and Blu-ray from today.