Ten years ago, Oren Peli joined an illustrious rank of independent filmmakers when he directed the original Paranormal Activity. The reputation and estimation of that film has suffered in recent years, in much the same way as The Blair Witch Project’s reputation did in the years that followed, but much of the criticism is unfair and misguided. For a film made on a mere $15,000, Paranormal Activity was a revelation—a shockingly, terrifyingly effective one. Peli, like Blair Witch directors Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez, was immediately tagged as an important new director when Paranormal Activity grossed $193 million and became an overnight sensation. But in the years that followed, he’s only directed one other movie—2015’s immediately forgotten and badly reviewed Area 51.
So, what happened to Oren Peli? Well, if his recent interview on director Mick Garris’ Post Mortem podcast is to be believed, it sounds like the guy burnt out on the entire filmmaking process after the success of Paranormal Activity.
“I kind of wanted to just kind of cash out and be done [after Paranormal Activity],” Peli said. “I got sucked into [producing] the Paranormal Activity sequels, then I had lunch with Steven Spielberg and he said, ‘Let’s do a TV show together.’ And we did The River. I kind of kept having different opportunities to get me sucked back in. And then I thought, ‘Yeah, I could find something to direct.’ I got sent a lot of scripts. There was one I really loved called Eliza Graves. It ended up being a whole big legal mess and the project fell through.”
The River in particular seemed to be Peli’s big bid for a true Paranormal Activity follow-up, but the ABC horror/thriller series never found its legs despite decent enough critical reception. Life outside the entertainment world then intervened, as Peli’s girlfriend became pregnant and he made the decision to remove himself from filmmaking. According to the interview, he even turned down an opportunity to direct the film that became James Wan’s The Conjuring. These days, his only film involvement seems to be remaining on to produce entries in the Insidious series, which he’s been attached to since the beginning. When asked if he would ever return to making his own films, Peli had this to say:
“At this point, I would have to be incredibly bored. But I don’t see that happening anytime soon. I would have to love something so much that I’m gonna give up my peaceful life now, and go back to the crazy world of directing. I’m very happy not to have to deal with [that] these days.”