Kathryn Newton: Normal Teen, “PARANORMAL ACTIVITY”


by: Trevor Parker on: 2013-01-28 15:03:03

Get ready to feel old: When asked what’s
next on her slate following a star turn as terrified teen Alex in PARANORMAL
ACTIVITY 4 (out on DVD/Blu-ray this Tuesday), effervescent young actress Kathryn
Newton replies, “I’m doing my high school academic decathlon tomorrow.” Although
already an experienced film and television actress, Ms. Newton’s tender age is uncommon;
especially with the horror genre’s often shameless propensity for stuffing much
older actors into teenage roles. It’s Newton’s authenticity and fresh appeal that
adds spark to a franchise on its fourth installment and entices audiences to
ride once again through the reliable PARANORMAL funhouse.

Newton says that she adapted easily to the
verité camera style and entirely-improvised dialogue so central to PARANORMAL’s
effectiveness. “The hardest part about filming the movie was that I didn’t get
to change the color of my nail polish for six months,” she jokes. “Alex is just
like any other teenager, except she’s a little bit cooler than I am, I’ve got
to say! It was all improv, so a lot of it just came from me, just came
naturally. It was easy to just be yourself—although I don’t get chased by demons
on a daily basis like Alex, thank goodness! Every take we did was something
different. We never said the same things over again, especially in scenes with
Matt Schiveley (who plays Ben).  We would
either do really minimal takes, or if it was a funny scene, we’d do ten takes
because every time we did it, it got funnier. So it was just about finding the
right temperature and what we all really liked about the scene. It’s just like
when you’re having a conversation with somebody; when you get to the best part
you want to keep talking about that part, so we just did it until we got the
best thing possible.”

Newton also got the opportunity to display
some more technical talents during the shoot. “Whenever I got to go behind the
camera, I was actually filming it,” she says. “I got to do the cinematography.”
She was also thrilled to receive an unexpected third credit on the film—as a
songwriter? “The scene where I’m playing guitar, [Directors Henry Joost and Ariel
Schulman] called the song ‘Robbie’s Playhouse’ (Robbie being the creepy moppet next-door
that terrorizes Alex) and actually gave me credit in the film. I was laughing
really hard when I saw that.”

Having two directors on a feature film is
unusual, but Newton says the partnership between Joost and Schulman was
friction-free. “Henry and Ariel, they’re amazing. They’re mega-positrons,” she
says. “Having two directors helped a lot. They’re best friends, they’d [bounce]
ideas around.” The directors would also team up in efforts to startle some
lively reactions out of their cast. “Sometimes they’d try and make me jump,” Newton
remembers. “They had a big bass drum on set that they would never tell anyone
that they were going to use, and that would get me. Every time that I’d have to
do a scare, I would be really funny because there’d be someone in the room or
the closet that I was going to walk into. With those, you have to just commit
and go for it because you don’t want to have to redo the scene thirty-two times
and keep screaming.”


It goes without saying that movies of PARANORMAL
4’s nature are best enjoyed in collaboration with an eager, non-ironic horror
movie crowd, when that sublime state of mass audience hysteria is reached.
Newton, who would eagerly await prior PARANORMAL entries as a fan before being
cast in part 4, agrees: “That was the coolest part about working on such an
established franchise was the amazing fanbase. When I did the first screening
with all the fans—it was the ‘Want It’ screening (an innovative Facebook
campaign in which online votes determined which cities would host preview
screenings), I didn’t know that people were so loyal and so excited about it. That
made it so much better. Nothing can compare to seeing it with fans. Every
scare, they were so pumped! They were screaming at the screen and throwing
popcorn, laughing, crying… That was a great experience.”

There does happen to be one benefit in
watching the film at home on DVD, and that will be the debut of “The Recovered
Files” as an extra feature; something that Newton promises will add more tantalizing
strands to the web of over-arching mythology that the PARANORMAL series as a
whole has woven. “I just watched The Recovered Files and I was freaking out; I was
scared. The Recovered Files is basically our favorite stuff that didn’t make it
into the movie, but there’s so much of the storyline that’s revealed that if
you’re really into what’s going to happen (with the franchise), you need to
watch it. There are clues and new hints. You have to see it, because I don’t
want to spoil them!”

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About the author
Trevor Parker http://www.trevorwriter.com
Trevor Parker is a Toronto-based writer and editorial assistant whose work has appeared in numerous international periodicals and websites. He also contributes the 'Dump Bin Diaries' column to Fangoria magazine. He can be reached at trevor@fangoria.com or via his website at www.trevorwriter.com.
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