By Sarah George
“Paranormal Activity” has done for new Hollywood horror what Facebook has done to the Internet. It has taken full authority in its target market that all similar horror movies will to struggle to compete with.
Oren Peli, producer of the “Paranormal Activity” series, who wrote and directed “Paranormal Activity,” teamed up with “Catfish” documentary directors Ariel Shulman and Henry Joost and “Disturbia” writer Christopher Landon for “Paranormal Activity 3.” The team upped the screams with the highly anticipated prequel, “Paranormal Activity 3.”
Audiences finally learn how the haunting of Kristi and Katie in the previous two installments began.
After learning of some old home videos that were stolen out of Kristi’s house, the audience is taken back 18 years to the childhood of Kristi and her sister Katie when the videos were made. At the time the girls are living with their mother Julie and her boyfriend, a wedding videographer named Dennis.
Strange events started to take place once Kristi begin talking to an imaginary friend named Toby. One night, after Julie and Dennis attempt to make an adult video, an earthquake hits and the camera catches dust falling onto an invisible figure just before it moves and the dust falls. Dennis learns that Toby tells secrets to Kristi that she cannot tell to anyone for fear of “not being safe.”
Dennis sets up cameras throughout the house to watch for strange occurrences, but Julie remains adamant that Toby is in “just a phase.” Eventually Kristi tells Toby that she doesn’t want to talk to him anymore, and things get worse from then on.
The rest of the film revolves around Dennis’ investigation into the demon haunting the house. He comes across a strange symbol in the girls’ closet and learns that it is a symbol of a witch cult that supposedly brainwashes girls and follows them until they get pregnant, and then sacrifices their firstborn son to the devil. This explains Katie’s capture of Hunter, Kristi’s firstborn, in “Paranormal Activity 2.”
Audience members will definitely not like Toby when he’s angry. Instead of introducing the audience to some scary creature or alien, these filmmakers essentially show them nothing. If they are lucky, they might see a dark mass, or dust fall on top of an invisible figure.
This is terrifying because the audience has no idea what this supposed “ghost” is capable of until they see it attack or manipulate the youngest daughter, Kristi. It never makes any noises, violent incidents happen out of nowhere, or the audience sees Kristi talking to it off of the screen.
“Paranormal Activity” has a very distinct, and, might I add, very brilliant equation for optimal screams. It goes a little something like this: give the audience a fake scare, make them complacent, and then really scare them.
Hearts are constantly racing, creating an atmosphere of tension throughout the film. Watching this film is basically the equivalent of going on a jog, taking a walking break, then suddenly tripping. Just repeat that for an hour and a half. It sounds exhausting because it is, but it’s worth it if you enjoy a good scare.
By the end of the first 15 minutes, the audience had completely bought into this movie. Marketing has almost everything to do with this. Audience members really have no idea what to expect, so they let their imagination get the best of them and end up being more scared than they might have been.
The editing also contributed to this. The editors of this film constantly waited until the audience members were ready to run out of the theater to hit them with something scary.
In a industry full of jump cuts, these editors played with the audience’s impatience. They were probably laughing quietly to themselves while editing this, knowing full well how much it would effect the audience.
Not only do these guys know how to scare an audience, they know how to make a lot of money off their films. The first “Paranormal Activity” cost somewhere around $15,000 in its budget, and ended up making more than $150 million at the box office. “Paranormal Activity 3” had somewhere around $5 million in its budget, and ended up breaking the record for high-grossing horror opening with an estimated $54 million.
The ending of this terrifying flick left the audience aching for answers. It’s safe to say that there may be a fourth installment. Usually I’m not a fan of Hollywood bleeding a series dry, but there are questions to be answered. Hopefully it will be even scarier.
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