Paranormal Activity is a 2007 horror mystery thriller shot in the “found footage” style, in which a young couple, Katie and Micah, are terrorized by a supernatural entity in their home. The two set up a camera in an attempt to document the haunting and the psychological ordeal they are put through. The “found footage” genre is mostly employed in horror films to provide a sense of veracity and also to create suspense, by not revealing more about motives or causes than can be derived from the events themselves. The style became largely appreciated since The Blair Witch Project in 1999, although it had also been employed in the 1980 graphic horror cult classic Cannibal Holocaust.
Paranormal Activity is considered by many experts to be one the most profitable movies ever made, with an estimated budget of merely $15,000, but grossing over $107 million in the US alone. Its first sequel had a budget of $3 million, yet had a gross revenue of over $170 million, continuing this trend of success. The series has also been praised for its use of silence and waiting to induce suspense and fear, rather than relying on frantic, high-paced scenes to achieve similar goals. One can only wonder if the Paranormal Activity 3 trailer expected to appear soon for the series’ third installment will manage to illustrate this very feature. The first film gained its popularity thanks to the long scenes in which nothing is apparently happening, but that seem very real and skilfully convey the torment experienced by the young pair. The audience is gradually introduced to the supernatural phenomena occurring within the house, which escalates as the movie progresses. A grim feeling follows through the entire film, as Katie and Micah’s gradual psychological deterioration is intimately experienced, in a strikingly realistic manner.
The first film was created with two possible alternate endings, which were sometimes used during screenings in 2007, and became freely available on the internet. However, Paramount has since made copyright claims on the materials and they were soon removed from widespread viewing. Paranormal Activity marked the directorial debut of Oren Peli, who also wrote the script, and would go on to write the sequels as well. The third installment is expected to be released in the fall of 2011.
Interestingly, this original version of Paranormal Activity was close to never being released: while Dreamworks initially intended to remake the film with a larger budget, they decided to test the original for one screening before going ahead with the second shooting. As people walked out of the cinema before the end of the film, the producers were convinced that it was going to be a flop. Much to the producers’ surprise, they later found out that people left because they found it too scary, and so it was that a remake would be uncalled for.