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Paranormal Activity: Where Did It Go Wrong?

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Paramount Pictures

The Paranormal Activity franchise has seen six movies released since the original in 2007. But as with so many successful horrors the sequels spiral downward quickly. But where did it all go wrong for Paranormal Activity?

Let me set the scene. It was a dark autumn evening in 2010. I’m sat with one my friends at his place when he suggests we watch a DVD that he’s recently bought. Why not, I thought? He shows me the cover. Paranormal Activity. Well, I do love a good horror film, so let’s give it a go.

We spent the next ninety minutes or so glued to the screen. I don’t think either of us said much through the entire movie. Once it was finished, he nonchalantly says to me, ‘fancy staying over?’ Now, I had recently started seeing a girl (now my wife) who I wanted to go and see on the way home. ‘Sorry mate, I said I would pop in and see my girlfriend on the way home’. He looked gutted but didn’t say it. I got into my car and immediately phoned my girlfriend and asked to stay at her place for the night. I then spent the entire car journey looking over my shoulder. This was all down to watching that film.

Genuinely terrifying

The saying goes that less is more, and that is exactly what makes the first Paranormal Activity film so terrifying. It relies on suspense and imagination alone, and your imagination is scarier than amounts of gory jump scares. If you live on Mars and have never watched Paranormal Activity, then don’t watch it alone.

The story revolves around two characters, Katy and Micah, and the increasing amounts of ‘activity’ that happens in their house at night. They decide to set up a camcorder to film them sleeping. What follows is ever-increasing amounts of activity as every night passes. The thing that surges your heart rate is that you don’t know what’s going to happen next. The night scenes where you watch the clock tick away have you on the edge-of-your-seat. You never know when the next scare will happen, so you teeter on the sofa, waiting for something to happen. I’ve genuinely never been more on-edge all the way through a movie like I was watching this.

Director Oren Peli made the film on just a few thousand dollars and used two unknown actors, who mainly improvised the dialogue. When you think about how huge the franchise has become, that’s quite incredible. That’s credit to just how good this film is. Even now, it’s genuinely unsettling to watch.

What happened next?

What always happens when Hollywood get a successful film. They make a sequel. Paranormal Activity 2 came out a year later. It’s set a few weeks before the events of the original film and based around the two sisters and baby Hunter. Now, this is still a good film. It’s still filmed on camcorders or house security cameras, and the effect is still dramatic. There are some heart-stopping scenes too; especially when Kirsti gets dragged out of the baby’s room and down the stairs. The kitchen scene where all the utensils fall from the ceiling actually made me jump as well. Paramount did a good job with this film, although it can’t match the sheer terror of the original.

Then came Paranormal Activity 3

Paranormal Activity 3 is where things start to go a bit wrong for the franchise. By this time, we kind of know the story (or at least be able to work it out). This instalment is the prequal to the franchise and shows Kristi and Katie as young girls experiencing the start of the activity. Don’t get me wrong, horror films are all the more terrifying when kids are involved. Look at The Exorcist; The Omen; The Shining and Poltergeist to name just a few.

There are some great moments in this film. Particularly scary is the scene where one of the girls is dragged across the bedroom floor into a cupboard. She’s only be released once the other sister agrees to the demon’s instruction. The scene where the girls are in the bathroom playing Bloody Mary is also unsettling. Especially when they open the door to see their furniture still being thrown around. There are also some cool jump scares through the movie, but it’s starting to feel a bit repetitive now.

The long pieces of security footage where you’re waiting for something to happen is feeling a bit tiresome now. It’s lost some of the edge that made the original film so terrifying. It’s beginning to become overkill. This was one of the highest-grossing films of the franchise though, so in hindsight, Paramount should have stopped there. But nope, they carried on.

It gets worse

Now we really start to descend down the rabbit hole of hogwash with Paranormal Activity 4, things going wrong seems polite.

Supposedly set directly after the events of movie number 2, it basically rehashes the first two movies. There is no real point to the story (as we already know the demon has come from a witch’s covenant), so it meanders along with very little meaning. Yes, there are a handful of well-done moments that’ll make you jump, but it’s not enough to make up for the lacklustre story. By the time you get to the end of the movie, you’re left asking yourself why you sat through it. It leaves more open questions than it answers and leaves you unsatisfied. But wait, it gets worse.

Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones was next to be released

This was technically a spin-off movie, and it showed. Again, there was no real point to this film. Apart from being an attempted cash-in. The film is set in California and is based around various Latino characters, as it was initially targeted for the Latino market. That’s the real positive I could pull from the film. A change of scenery and characters did put a new spin on the story. Unfortunately, though, it wasn’t enough to save what is in essence, an average horror movie. There are a couple of cool scares throughout, but it just feels generic.

Director Christopher Landon is just going through the motions. The final scene is a prime example. One of the characters is being chased by a possessed man and ends up going through a random door. Where does it go? Oh look, it ends up in Katie and Micha’s house from the first film. Katie sees him, screams, Micha comes down and Katie stabs him before the character is himself killed. It’s as if it was thrown in to somehow tie in better with the franchise, but it feels clunky and pointless. Avoid this film.

And, finally

The final film in the franchise, Paranormal Activity 5: The Ghost Dimension, was released in 2015.

Now, I’m going to give this one a little bit of credit. But only because it tied up a few of the franchises lingering questions about who ‘Tobi’ the demon was and the history of the witch’s coven. The rest of the film is a bit of a yawn-fest. The trouble is, we’ve seen it all before. Many times. They didn’t do anything to push the franchise forward or do anything original.

The family in this story discover the history of the house they live in and find clues about the past of young Katie and Kristi. Inevitably, hauntings start happening and things go a bit crazy. The girl also disappears into a ‘portal’ in her bedroom wall that takes her to another dimension (really?). The final ten minutes of the movie are really the worst.

The family try and do an exorcism in the house and end of trapping the demon in a blanket covered in holy water. Yep. He escapes (obviously) and ends up fulfilling his goal of being a real being. Correct me if I’m wrong, but surely life is better being an actual demon? You get to disappear when you want; scare the hell out of people and genuinely be a nuisance without taking any responsibility. Sounds a win-win. Anyway, some ropey CGI just cements the fact that this movie is dire and should definitely be avoided. I also watched this film in the cinema and at the end some guy stood up and said loudly, ‘well, that was a load of s••t’. Says it all, really.

The future?

Just as you think that they’ve squeezed about every inch of flesh from the franchise, it seems that another Paranormal Activity film is in the works, so more opportunity to get things wrong.

I have no idea where they can take it and if I was a betting man, I would say it’s probably going to be terrible. I try to be an optimist though, so I’ll watch when it comes out next year, but I’ll be setting my bar very low. It’s a shame that they wrung the franchise of any originality.

It should have been kept at two films. Well, possibly three at a push. But the others should have never been made as it was a pure cash-in. They also take the shine off the original, which is, in my opinion, one of the scariest films ever made.


Thanks for reading this article on where did it all go wrong for the Paranormal Activity series. Do you agree or disagree with our points or have anything to add? If so, leave us a comment below.


More of our movie articles HERE.

Read IMDB information on Paranormal Activity (1997) HERE.

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Movie News

Hogwarts Houses For MCU Characters

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Marvel Studios & Warner Bros.

Since its conception, Hogwarts houses have been a deciding factor in getting to know people. How someone answers “what Hogwarts house are you in?” can tell you a lot about a person. But where do some of our favourite MCU characters shape up when faced with the sorting hat?

Tony Stark/Iron Man- Ravenclaw

While Tony could be argued for almost any of the houses, Ravenclaw suits him best. Most of his development comes from the pursuit of knowledge. Aside from being one of the smartest characters in the MCU, he is constantly learning and improving upon his technology. He tends to approach large problems from a strategic and pragmatic standpoint, especially in his later films. Admittedly he can be brave and somewhat self-servingly ambitious. But who he is at the end of his arc and the way that he solves problems points to Iron Man being in Ravenclaw.

Steve Rogers/Captain America- Gryffindor

Is it even a question? Steve Rogers is definitely a Gryffindor. From day one, he has always strived to do what’s right. And he subtly wants a bit of glory for it too. He’s a natural leader and has always rushed into danger without a thought. He is undoubtedly driven by bravery and righteousness and is through and through a Gryffindor.

Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow- Hufflepuff

Natasha is tricky. She could truthfully swing in any direction. It may seem strange to put a spy in Hufflepuff, but if nothing else, Natasha is loyal. She cares deeply for those close to her and has shown that she’s willing to die for them. Her characterization throughout the MCU has been lacking, but her solo film has shown her to be fiercely loyal.

Bruce Banner/The Hulk- Ravenclaw

Another Ravenclaw. Similar to Tony, Bruce is very intelligent. While he seems to be less inclined to want to fight battles than Tony is, he is constantly learning. His relationship with the Hulk can even be characterized this way. By a desire to learn how to control him, then to understand him, then to become him. His arc is one that is driven by knowledge.

Thor- Gryffindor

Thor is always looking to prove himself. Even though he can lift the hammer, he is constantly looking for validation that he is worthy. He’s not usually afraid of much, and when he is, he faces it anyway. What makes Thor a Gryffindor though is his desire to be the hero. He’s not in Slytherin because he doesn’t desire to rule. He’s not ambitious, he just wants validation.

Peter Parker/Spiderman- Gryffindor

Peter is another hard one. He’s intelligent like Bruce and Tony, which could throw him into Ravenclaw. He’s loyal to his friends, which could put him into Hufflepuff. But at his core, Peter is in Gryffindor. The proof is in one of his first lines in the MCU. In Civil War, he tells Tony, “if you can do the things I do, and you don’t, then bad things happen because of you. (paraphrased)” He feels that because he’s special, he has to act. And unlike Steve and Thor, Peter is almost always afraid. He faces his challenges in spite of that. And while he wants to have a normal life, and a typical High School experience, he selflessly puts himself on the line. Once again, Peter is not looking for recognition, he’s just trying to do the right thing.

Dr Strange- Ravenclaw

Lots of Ravenclaws in the MCU. For Dr Strange, there really isn’t any other option. He is completely driven by the pursuit of knowledge. And while recognition came with that, we see with his journey into the mystic arts that his true motivation comes from learning. He’s a very similar character to Tony Stark, and both of them are textbook Ravenclaws.

Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch- Hufflepuff

Like Natasha, Wanda is driven by her relationships. She is faithfully loyal to her brother, then Vision, then her family. She is definitely motivated to protect and care for those she loves. Including creating an entire alternate reality to be with them! Wanda is brave and intelligent, but at her core, she is loyal.

Loki- Slytherin

Finally, a Slytherin. Once again, was there any other option? Loki is characterized by his cunning and ambition. He wants to rule. And he doesn’t get there by rushing into battle. He gets there by being sneaky and clever. Loki is a Slytherin through and through.

Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel- Slytherin

This may not feel like the obvious choice for Carol, but she definitely portrays characteristics of a Slytherin. She’s the best, and she wants people to know it. She’s confident and clever, and she likes attention. We don’t know her very well yet, but from what we’ve seen, she seems to relish in the attention her efforts provide. She is good, helpful, and ambitious.

T’Challa/Black Panther- Hufflepuff

T’Challa is also driven by loyalty. But while he is protective of those he loves, his true loyalty is to Wakanda. He’s not king because of ambition, he’s king out of duty. Everything he does is through the lens of “what is best for Wakanda?” While it’s a bit unconventional, his loyalty to Wakanda characterizes him as a Hufflepuff.

Scott Lang/Ant-Man- Gryffindor

At first, it appears that Scott would be in Hufflepuff. After all, he is very motivated by his relationship with his daughter. But if he were truly 100% driven by that, he would have made different choices. He would not have betrayed Hope and Hank and teamed up with Captain America without their permission. He also would not have stolen from his company and landed in jail in the first place. But both of those above decisions do characterize him as a Gryffindor. He wants to be in the action, and he doesn’t always consider the consequences. Scott isn’t really looking for recognition and is not that ambitious, but he does want to be involved in the big events. He wants to help people, and he bravely faces battles. Sometimes without discretion.


Do you agree with our picks for these MCU characters in Hogwarts Houses? If not or if we’ve missed any out, leave us a comment below.


Check out our review of Black Widow HERE.

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