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Paranormal Activity: Where Did It Go Wrong?



Paranormal Activity movie image
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

9 Bands You Forgot Played Themselves In Movies



Wayne's World image
Paramount Pictures

There are more bands than you think that played themselves on the big screen. Here are nine bands you might’ve forgotten appeared in movies.

1. Alice Cooper – Wayne’s World (1992)

Being a teenager in the nineties was great for many reasons. Two of those being the release of the Wayne’s World movies. The genius that is Mike Myers created one of the best music-based films of all time. Plus, he convinced one of the greatest rock musicians of all time to be in it. If you’re not a geek like me, you may have forgotten that Alice Cooper was featured in the film. It had the iconic scene of Wayne and Garth meeting, Alice, backstage on bent knees. We’re not worthy, indeed. Alice himself pulls off the diva Rockstar brilliantly, even though he’s a genuine, down-to-earth guy who plays a lot of golf.

2. Primus – Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey (1991)

Let’s try and erase the recent Bill & Ted movie from our memory and head back to 1991 for their bogus journey. They come from the future to kill the non-robot versions of themselves and ruin their performance at a Battle of the Bands competition. What’s cool is the band who are playing before them. Californian alt-metal kings Primus. Although the clip is only short, they play themselves and sound as you would expect. Epic.

3. Fall Out Boy – Sex Drive (2008)

You’d be forgiven for forgetting about this one. The teen sex comedy from 2008 is forgettable and won’t really appeal to anyone apart from its teen target audience. If you can sit through all the cringe-inducing moments, you will spot pop-rockers Fall Out Boy. They are performing in a barn in front of some drunk Amish teenagers. There’s a reason for that, but I won’t bore you with it here. What is good, is the soundtrack of the film. As well as Fall Out Boy, it features Airbourne, AC/DC and weirdly, Kenny Loggins.

4. Twisted Sister – Pee Wee’s Big Adventure (1985)

Paul Reuben’s character Pee Wee Herman made his big-screen outing in 1985. The children’s show star had a scene where he is being chased through a studio parking lot. Unbeknown to him, glam rockers Twisted Sister are recording a music video on a car. Lead singer Dee Snider is always up for a laugh, so it’s no surprise they’re featured. The clip is brilliant. Pee Wee’s prop-laden bike is just about to crash into Twisted Sister and the look on Dee’s face is genius. Go check out the clip.

5. David Bowie – Zoolander (2001)

Who can forget the brilliant Zoolander? Starring Ben Stiller as the dippy model, it’s one of the funniest comedies ever made. One of the best scenes of the film is the walk-off. This involved Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson’s characters doing a catwalk-off. Of sorts. Can you remember who refereed it? The legend himself, David Bowie. It’s not the first time Bowie was in a movie – remember Labyrinth? But this time, he plays himself. And does it with all the cool swagger you would expect.

6. The Mighty Mighty Bosstones – Clueless (1995)

I can’t say that I was a massive fan of this teen comedy at the time. The plot revolves around Alicia Silverstone’s character giving her friend a makeover. The premise doesn’t sound like it lends itself to a cool band cameo. You’d be wrong, though. There’s a scene where the lead characters go watch a gig. The band that are playing are The Mighty Mighty Bosstones. The Boston ska-punk legends are only on stage for a moment, but it’s a slick clip. It certainly brings the film up a level on the cool stakes.

7. Daft Punk – Tron: Legacy (2010)

This sequel to the original sci-fi classic is a cracking movie. The visuals and effects are stunning, as is the atmosphere of the film. The music to the film is also rather special. A futuristic and dystopian movie could only have one act doing the score, and that’s Daft Punk. It works a treat. The music is intertwined into the movie and becomes a part of it. The delicious electronica is the perfect complement to the visuals. The French electronic masters also have a cameo at the end of the movie. They’re spinning the decks in a blink-and-you-miss-it scene.

8. Aerosmith – Wayne’s World (1993)

We’ve already had an appearance from the first film further up our list, and the second doesn’t disappoint either. The plot revolves around Wayne and Garth putting on their own music festival. Book them and they will come, is the advice given. And they certainly did. The headline band for the festival were none other than Aerosmith themselves. They do a sterling effort on stage as performers. And Steven Tyler also shows that he can handle his own on the acting front too.

9. Reel Big Fish – BASEketball (1998)

Trey Parker and Matt Stone star in this bizarre and hilarious sports comedy. Written by the king of spoof David Zucker, it’s become a cult classic. The soundtrack heavily features ska-punkers Reel Big Fish. They do a brilliant rendition of A-HA’s Take on Me, which they also perform in the movie. The band are the entertainment at the stadium where Parker and Stone are competing. You can tell by the footage that the band are clearly enjoying themselves. They add a touch more fun to an already hugely funny film.

That’s our list of nine bands who played themselves in movies. Did we miss any of your favourites? Let us know in the comments below.

Check out our list of actors in bands HERE.

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