Lexington native Chris Murray thought he was auditioning for a comedy the first time he read for Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension.
"I do a lot of improv" Murray says. "At the audition, the director would say, 'OK, I'll give you a set up, and you go with it.'
"At one point, I was telling a friend of mine, 'They're turning Paranormal Activity into a comedy."
The movie didn't turn out to be a comedy, but Murray did get his first lead in a feature film for the sixth installment of the resilient suspense and horror franchise.
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The series has centered on demons terrorizing a family and several other people, telling the story primarily through found footage on video cameras, computers and other devices.
In the new movie Murray plays Ryan, a dad who has just moved his family into a new home and finds a video camera designed to see more than is apparent to the naked eye.
Fairly quickly, he sees the dark forces that are preying upon his family, particularly his daughter. And through videos from the previous owners, he and his wife (Brit Shaw) see how previous residents have been terrorized.
"There is some funny banter," Murray says. "But it's mostly about being terrified of what's in your house."
Murray has a slight sense of that, he said, having sometimes been terrified as a kid to go get milk from the basement refrigerator in his parents Lexington home in the Chinoe Road-Tates Creek Road area. But his entertainment tastes leaned more toward comedy and lighter fare.
Murray is the son of James Murray, a Lexington attorney, and Anne Murray, a teacher. He was a soccer player at Henry Clay High School in the late 1990s, and took that skill to Davidson College. But he always had an affinity for theater, since he was a student at Morton Middle School, playing roles such as Demetrius in A Midsummer Night's Dream.
"I starred in The Misanthrope at Davidson and thought I was bound for stardom," Murray says.
After college, he moved to New York to pursue theater, working in off off Broadway productions and gaining a lot of work in advertisements for companies such as Toyota, Snapple and Reese's.
"I was the face of Budweiser in Ireland one summer," Murray says.
But films are where most actors want to take their careers, and Murray is no exception. Coming to Paranormal Activity without much of a background in acting in horror roles was an adjustment for Murray.
"The whole house was completely dark, even on a bright, sunny August day," Murray says. "You find yourself sinking into this dark place.
"Fear is a tough emotion to stay in for a long time."
Since making the horror movie, he has developed a greater interest in the genre.
"I like the roller-coaster ride, the thrill ride," he says.
That doesn't mean he is aiming specifically for a career in horror movies. Now that he has had the exposure of a major release in a recognizable franchise, Murray says, " I want to keep working on interesting stuff, playing interesting characters."
And he has taken that opportunity recently, being a voice in a few installments of the Grand Theft Auto video game series. And he says he is intrigued by opportunities presented by new mediums such as web and streaming series. But his desires are really fairly simple.
"I just want to wake up in the morning and have something interesting to work on," he says.
And after time in the world of Paranormal Activity, he wouldn't mind if some of those opportunities involved daylight.