At Fantastic Fest Wednesday night in Austin, Tx., bleary-eyed fans were treated to a work-in-progress midnight screening of Paranormal Activity 4 (in theaters October 19th). The latest installment in the mega-popular found-footage horror franchise picks up five years after the double murder of demon-possessed Katie’s sister and brother-in-law and the kidnapping of her baby nephew Hunter. Now there’s a new kid in town. He’s got a bad haircut and ill-fitting grey sweatpants so we know he’s trouble. When his supposed mother (played by Katie Featherston, creepy as ever!) is taken away one night in an ambulance, he has to live with the oblivious family across the street. It’s hardly a spoiler to say this doesn’t end well. Featherston sat down wtih EW the next morning to talk creepy kids, her love of comedy, and how many more Paranormal Activities she has left in her.
Entertainment Weekly: Was the horror genre always right in your wheelhouse?
Katie Featherston: I moved to Los Angeles right after college. I went to SMU in Dallas and did theater there. Paranormal Activity was one of my first auditions. I was waiting tables at Buca di Beppo on CityWalk. There was no ‘This is not my genre.’ When you’re new to town there’s this thing called L.A. Casting and when you don’t have any reps that’s how you get auditions. So I went on there and saw this post and it said : “Found footage-style scary movie. Please be willing to work long hours. It pays $500.” And I got so excited. And now I am fortunate enough to only do work that I want to do which is a really huge blessing. That means that when I get offered other lesser scary movies that don’t live up to what we’ve created I don’t have to jump in and do.
There’s creepy kids in Paranormal Activity 4. When the camera’s not rolling, are creepy kids still creepy?
No, they’re hanging out in the cast house and watching The Hunger Games. Or they’re trying to teach me how to do the Dougie dance move. And they’re so professional. I was doing a scene with Aiden (who plays a vulnerable cutie pie named Wyatt) and we were walking across the street and he was telling me about his dog and his dog is part pit bull and ‘Man pit bulls get a bad rap in the press.’ And then they’d be like alright, action! And he’d go right into it as I’m still thinking about pit bulls.
The mythology deepens and folds in on itself with every Paranormal Activity. Theoretically there could be an infinite number of sequels. Have you given yourself a limit, like ‘I’ll do six but then I’m out.‘
At some point I’d have to stop. I’m not going to be 50 and going ‘Okay, it’s time again. Time to do my creepy walk. Pause, head turn.’ But it’s such a great group of people, and such a family atmosphere, that it would be hard not to come back. And they’re really good about making it make sense for me to be there. I don’t think anybody would want me to be tucked in the movie just for the heck of it.
You’ve been relegated to a smaller role in the last couple. Do you hope your story is ever front-and-center again?
I would love for some of nice Katie’s loose ends to be tied up. Like the fact that the last thing she remembers is wanting to leave her house with her boyfriend and if she ever became unpossessed again she would find out that her boyfriend is dead. And her whole family is gone. That story is maybe not a scary movie, maybe that’s a really sad drama. (laughs) But for me I loved that girl and she’s had a rough go of it.
What is your working life like in between Paranormal Activities?
I want to do comedy. To book a single camera comedy would be awesome. But that’s something I have to break into because people don’t watch Paranormal Activity and think ‘Oh yeah, she’sfunny, she can do comedy.’ But I can, and I’m going to. So I’m going to keep auditioning and trying to do well in the room and making friends with different casting directors. I auditioned the other day for Up All Night, I love that show. I would have a scene with [Maya Rudolph’s] Ava if I were to book it!
When you walk in to audition for something like a guest part on Up All Night, do people recognize you?
It’s always one of two things. It’s either ‘Oh my gosh, we love those movies, so good, we’re so excited to meet you!’ Or ‘Oookay, so you were in those movies? Alright, umm hmm, cool’ and they clearly have never and would never see a scary movie like ours.
You’re the enduring star of a wildly popular franchise, but one that appeals to a specific audience. Despite Paranormal’s success, do you ever find yourself feeling intimidated or still green?
Oh yeah. I remember when Paramount turned 100 and they were going to take this big picture and they asked me to go. It was such a huge, huge honor and there were all these incredibly talented, super famous people. And then me! I was so intimidated. But I introduced myself to Steven Spielberg because I always told myself if you’re in the same room with him introduce yourself.
Did the conversation live up to your fantasy? Did he give you any words of encouragement?
He recognized me so that was encouragement enough! My conversation with him was brief but he was so engaging and genuine and present. There were all these super famous people like Tom Cruise there. I was fortunate enough to stand near Jack Black and Paul Rudd who are so warm and funny and nice. And I was really trying to put myself out there, like I’m going to talk to people tonight. And so I said ‘Paul, hi, I’m Katie.’ And he was like ‘Hi! Katie! Great to see you again!’ and I said ‘No, no. You’ve not seen me before.’ And he was like ‘Oh okay! Okay, I didn’t know, but I didn’t want to be rude.’ ‘Don’t worry about it, Paul. You don’t recognize me. It’s cool.'”