Paranormal Activity can be a rather confusing franchise to unravel for many viewers, often if you ask someone what it is about, you will get a extended blank stare followed by “uhh ghosts”. However, there is in fact an ongoing story that is being told through out each of the films, revolving around a demonic presence named “Toby” and a coven of witches, who do his bidding. Below I have comprised a brief rundown of the franchises story arc after three films; there will be spoilers included beyond this point, so if you have not seen the latest flick or any others be warned.
Synopsis: Lois, the grandmother of Katie and Kristi is a member of a coven of witches dating back to at least the 30s, who serve a demon. Their goal is to brain wash young girls into giving birth to sons that are given to the demon; afterwards they wipe the memory from the girls mind. The third film takes place in 1988 when Kristi and Katie are little girls, they move into a house with their parents where strange things start happening that continue to get worse each day, Kristi befriends a spirit she calls “Toby” which I believe is the demon the coven serves. Eventually, things get so bad that the family flee from their home to Lois’ house where the demon kills Dennis and Julie leaving the grandmother to raise the girls.
In 2005, Lois has passed away and Katie brings a box of stuff from her old house to Kristi, who is pregnant and her husband Dan. Inside the box are tapes labeled 1988 and 1992, and a necklace. After Kristi gives birth to her child who happens to be a boy, their home is broken into but the only things that are taken are the necklace and videotapes. Soon afterwards strange things start to happen in their house. They discover that Kristi’s son Hunter is first male heir to be born in the family since the 30s and is promised to the demon. Kristi becomes possessed by the demon, but they discover a way to transfer it to another person, who turns out to be Katie.
Katie and her boyfriend Micah, have just moved into their own home, which starts to become riddled with paranormal activity. Katie ends up telling Micah about the strange things that have occurred through out life. The demon is transferred into Katie taking control of her, she then murders Micah, breaks into Kristi and Dan’s home and kills them, grabbing Hunter and disappearing with him. Ali (Kristi’s step daughter) is not home at the time, making her the only known survivor besides Hunter and Demonic Katie.
With a fourth film in the works, this one time hater of the franchise is dying to see where the series takes us next. Many of you may remember that I absolutely hated the first two films, I even gave the second installment an ultra low 1 of 10 score. My biggest complaint was the lack of story that I originally thought it featured, the first film made little sense and came off as simply an excuse to showcase neat new ways of presenting paranormal activity on screen. Even after viewing the second movie, I found myself really confused on what the point of the franchise was exactly. The third film really fills in a lot gaps, although it creates a few new ones as well, over all I really had a great time watching it. Suddenly the entire franchise made sense to me, which made me, decide to sit down and watch the previous two films again, despite my initial experiences with them.
I can admit when I have been wrong about a franchise, and that is exactly the case with Paranormal Activity, but to be fair that was mainly due to the original incantation to be filled with story gaps. After viewing the third installment, I really enjoyed the first two films this time around. Going in knowing what everything means, and for the first time fully understanding the story arc makes the movies so much more enjoyable and effective. Knowing what the spirit is and what it wants makes the first two films so much easier to follow, the franchise went from being my second most hated to being one of the most fun viewing experiences I have had. I have always been a big fan of found footage style horror flicks, as I feel they are a great example of indie film making at its finest when it comes to working with what you can afford but still getting your vision across.
Paranormal Activity does a wonderful job as a franchise at making the entire experience feel real. If you notice in each of the films they pay close attention to what technology is featured, ensuring everything existed in the time frame the movie takes place in, and also other factors like the fashion and decorations found in the homes. Everything feels natural, adding a level of realism that truly amps up the fear factor created in the pit of the viewer’s stomach.
At this junction, I consider this franchise to be a great addition to the found footage subgenre, and am highly looking forward to seeing how this series ends. I just hope they do not make the mistake of dragging it out to long with unneeded entries for the sake of continuing to milk the franchise for easy money. If they manage to close the franchise in a neat package, it will go down in horror history as a must watch series.