My Hate-Hate Love Relationship with the Paranormal Activity Films

A few years back we were hit with pleas of “Demand It” in order to get a chance at watching Paranormal Activity. How many times were we shown those trailers chock full of audience reaction shots trying to convince us how terrifying the film would be? Too many times. I got suckered into it, I “demanded” it and I got my wish. Paranormal Activity would come to my town, Rochester, NY! I remember going to the theater with two of my friends not too long after its release.

Amused doesn’t really characterize my feelings that night.

I laughed a lot. They might have been more like chuckles. I chuckled a lot. I was amused however, at the people in the theater who were scared. Scared of what? Jump scares! It was amateur hour. The only somewhat interesting moment for me was when those mysterious hoof prints appeared. Aside from that the only worthwhile reason for me to be sitting there was to look at Katie Featherston’s breasts. I left the theater feeling duped. Hollywood had pulled one over on me. They got me to demand to watch a shit film while they lined their pockets.

I wasn’t surprised when I got word that there would be a sequel. I was vehemently against the idea and I had no plans on seeing it. It just so happens that I have a friend who works at a theater. He caught me walking out of another film that fateful night and asked me if I wanted to see Paranormal Activity 2. I figured “What the hell?”, it wasn’t my dime.

I felt like I was experiencing severe deja vu as people all around me couldn’t shut up about how scared they were as a slew of jump scares plowed on. Katie Featherston’s acting somehow got worse, I didn’t think that was possible! The movie continued on, ending up where the first one left off. It felt like a logical conclusion point so I left in order to beat the traffic of the packed theater. Turns out that had been the first screening of PA 2 at that theater. It also turned out that I was wrong in thinking the film was over. There were about twenty minutes left. It was too late, I wasn’t going to go back. I walked out of the theater dismayed and with some tears. I couldn’t believe this was what my beloved horror genre had become to most of America. If this was what they found to be scary I really wasn’t sure if I could recover.

I was done. I knew that thanks to the box office blitz that there would be a third in the series, but I exclaimed far and wide I wouldn’t under any circumstances go and see it.

Flash forward to a few months ago, and I fall in love with this documentary called Catfish. It tells the story of a young photographer who finds himself falling in love with a woman he’s never met after meeting her over the internet, accidentally through being a fan of her little sisters painting. The story of course is far more complicated than that. Think The Night Listener with a bigger and far stranger twist. I fell for this movie hard, and as I was searching around for more info on the filmmakers, Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman I found the news that they would be directing Paranormal Activity 3. Hold the phone. Ugh. Are you serious? No. No. No. Yes, it was true. Why would this happen to me? I respect some filmmakers and they go and jump on the suckiest series of movies ever bandwagon.

A few months pass and the trailer for PA 3 comes out. I watch it. It actually looks good. I can feel the urge rise up in me. I think to myself “No, you might feel this, but you won’t. I won’t let you.” Another month passes and there it is, in theaters. I find myself with two free movie passes as a promotional prize. Shit. I’m going to go see Paranormal Activity 3. I kept it secret. I didn’t tell anyone I was going, because I was fully prepared that I would hate it and not want to admit I had gone to see it.

Then something crazy happened. I realized half way through that I was really enjoying it. I wasn’t scoffing at the bad acting, because there wasn’t any. Hell I only had to deal with godawful Katie Featherston for like 5 seconds. Seriously though, how the hell does she get acting gigs? Anyways, I found myself feeling that this was believable, it felt like it was set in the time period. The story held to be more plausible than anything in the previous installments. The backstory was so much better than I could have ever expected. I actually felt jumpy in some parts and NOT because of jump scares! This film wasn’t just defying my expectations, because I went in having none. No this film was exceeding my wildest dreams of what some studio film could make me feel. I left the theater feeling quite energized. I didn’t feel a bit of what I felt the year before. I didn’t feel like my horror genre was broken. It was healing. The studio horror films will never change, but at least this one sparked a new feeling long since forgotten for me.

I can only attribute it to a fresh set of eyes from Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman. And the fact that screenwriter Christopher Landon woke up after that lame part 2 he penned. Whatever the case I’m a believer…at least in one of the Paranormal Activity films.

News just in, Joost and Schulman are directing Paranormal Activity 4. Not sure yet if I can admit that I’ll probably go and see it. I’m 2 for 2 in liking their films, but if they fail me on part 4 so help them God. They don’t want to make me cry again.

  • Jeremy Logsdon

    Except for the fact that I haven’t seen part 3 yet, it feels like you crawled in my head and pulled out my opinions here.

    Some friends and I went to the theater to see it, and the five of us sat there bored while the rest of the theater was screaming and jumping. It literally made me sad.

    I saw PA2 on video. Meh. (Rented it for free from the library. I’m classy like that, and I couldn’t stand to be be out financially out anything to watch it.)

    After reading this, I think I’ll check out PA3.

  • Kristy


    I know! It kills me how many people were terrified by the first 2. I’m interested to know what you think of 3! Hopefully you agree with me there too 🙂