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The ending of Paranormal Activity explained

In 2007, Paranormal Activity reignited interest in the supernatural horror genre, and its success led to a popular film franchise that spans six films and counting as well as other assorted media. The first film's brilliant marketing campaign and micro-budget of only $15,000 set it apart from the crowd, easily stirring up audience interest without risking much money in the production process. In the end, the film turned a massive profit, raking in a whopping $193,355,800 worldwide.

Paranormal Activity centers on Katie and her overly confident — some might even say arrogant — boyfriend, Micah. After moving to a new home together, the pair must grapple with the presence of Katie's invisible friend, a demon that has been attached to her since childhood. Micah's solution is to capture every second of their lives on film, hoping that he can secure evidence of the demon's existence. Of course, things don't go as smoothly as Micah may have expected, and Katie's demon quickly becomes a dangerous threat for the couple.

The film raises a few important questions along the way. How did the demon latch onto Katie in the first place? How exactly does the demon become more powerful? For answers to all those riddles and more, here's a look at everything you need to know about the ending of Paranormal Activity.

Micah's camera is always running

From the moment the couple steps through their front door, the film's entirety is shown from Micah's perspective, either directly behind the camera or as the person who set the scene. After moving into their new San Diego home, Micah prompts his girlfriend Katie to retell a troubling bit of personal history for his recording. Katie believes that a supernatural entity has been following her since childhood. More specifically, Katie explains that after her childhood home inexplicably went up in flames, she has seen and experienced multiple paranormal happenings. 

Seeing as she and Micah have moved in together, it only makes sense that Katie reveals her concerns to Micah. However, he is clearly far from receptive to any ideas of ghosts or anything having to do with the supernatural. As a result, Micah invests half a day's earnings on a new camera setup to test Katie's theory about being haunted and to catch any evidence of ghostly activity. Micah even surprises Katie by explaining that the camera will be rolling 24/7, even when the couple is asleep. 

From here on out, it's clear that Micah intends to bring the camera everywhere in the home. When the couple is chilling on the couch, the camera is rolling. If they're having cereal at the breakfast bar, it's captured on camera. Hours of the couple sleeping is filmed each night and thoroughly investigated by Micah the next day. Any emotional outbursts are caught on film, and the camera is always a part of the scene or conversation.

The couple turns to a famous psychic

When Micah outwardly mocks the validity of Katie's situation, she turns to Dr. Fredrichs, a psychic who she hopes can help her navigate her unique experiences and offer some clarity to her disturbing experiences. As Micah's camera rolls, Dr. Fredrichs quickly deduces that the entity following Katie isn't a ghost at all but is instead a demon. Unlike a ghost, demons are malicious, dangerous entities that feed off their victims' negative energy. The psychic explains that the demon will continue to follow Katie wherever she runs, so she will have to nip this problem in the bud as quickly and effectively as possible. 

Because demons are outside Dr. Fredrichs' expertise, he refers Katie to a demonologist. Before making his exit, he warns the couple, specifically Micah, not to tempt the demon to communicate since he had shown interest in drawing the demon out. According to the psychic, doing so could be highly dangerous. 

Following the appointment, Katie expresses interest in contacting the demonologist, but Micah immediately shuts the idea down. Not only does he refer to Dr. Fredrichs as a quack, but he is in disbelief that Katie seems to be buying into the concept of a demonic entity at all. For the time being, Katie decides to hold off on contacting the demonologist, and Micah continues with his constant filming.

Things start to go bump in the night

Luckily for Micah, it seems like whatever has attached itself to Katie may be interested in communicating somehow with the couple. After a few strange occurrences begin to take place around the home, Micah is absolutely ecstatic that he's caught something seemingly impossible on film. 

The first credible sign of paranormal activity begins with a door opening on its own, but the occurrences steadily continue to grow with each passing night. For example, lights turn on and off, household items turn up in different places without Katie or Micah moving them, and so on and so forth. However, things start to get a little stranger as the filming progresses. After night five, Micah captures a strange grunting noise on an audio recorder, which he and Katie are unable to assign to any living creature or other corporeal objects. Another odd occurrence happens on night 15 when the camera catches footage of Katie getting out of bed in the middle of the night in a trance-like state. For two hours, she stands stock still beside the bed before crawling back in and going back to sleep. When Micah shows her the footage, Katie doesn't seem to have any recollection of doing this the night before.

Micah becomes obsessed with drawing out the demon

Though Micah starts out as a rather confident non-believer, he very quickly becomes consumed with capturing every paranormal event on film. More dangerous, Micah goes against both the psychic's warnings and Katie's wishes, trying to communicate with the demon himself.

Micah invests in a Ouija board, which makes Katie absolutely livid. Micah is made to temporarily abandon the toy, but the board's presence is enough to invoke the demon's response anyway. After a few moments of silence, the cursor on the board begins to move on its own. Then the Ouija board actually catches on fire, leaving behind an engraving of a pentagram on its surface. When Micah discovers the engraving on the board and looks over the footage, he is convinced that the demon is trying to tell them something and begins trying to solve a puzzle that likely doesn't even exist. Katie begs Micah to stop playing games and call the demonologist, but Micah continues to assert that he has the situation under control.

On night 17, Micah decides to run an experiment of his own. He pours baby powder all over the upstairs floor to capture more evidence of the demon on film. Katie is confused about what the experiment will prove since the two know the demon does, in fact, exist. However, she gives in and makes him agree that if things escalate after his baby powder trials, she is calling the demonologist to step in.

Katie calls the demonologist to step in

On the night of Micah's baby powder stunt, Katie and Micah are woken up by loud creaks in the walls. More alarming, they find that a trail of footprints has been left behind in the baby powder, leading up to the attic. Katie believes this is a trap meant to lure the couple into the attic and harm them there, but Micah is unfazed. After fearlessly venturing into the attic, he returns with a burnt picture of Katie as a child. This discovery shocks Katie, as the image is from her childhood home that had burned down, and it's impossible that it could have found its way into the attic after all these years. 

Having finally had enough, Katie calls the demonologist despite Micah's continued protests. Unfortunately, the demonologist is abroad and doesn't answer their call, so as a last resort, Katie and Micah call Dr. Fredrichs back to their home. As soon as the psychic steps through the front door, he immediately comments that the demonic energy in the home is overwhelming. He expresses that his presence in the house is only making the demon angrier and is likely making their situation even worse as a result. Apologetic, he insists there is nothing more he can do to help the couple. Unfortunately, the demonologist is out of the country, meaning that for now, there isn't much else Katie and Micah can do except endure the demon's presence.

Micah learns the cyclical history of the demon

After failing to secure help from both the demonologist and Dr. Fredrichs, Katie and Micah are seemingly out of options. But in typical Micah fashion, he decides to take matters into his own hands yet again. Taking to the internet for some research, Micah actually surprises Katie with some useful information. 

Apparently, her demon has a track record of burning down houses and haunting young women. The previous victim, a woman named Diane, was also haunted by a demon after her home burned down when she was eight. After calling an exorcist, her state worsened dramatically, and the demon presumably killed Diane and jumped to Katie. With this knowledge at their disposal, Katie now has to confront the notion that a professional may actually worsen her situation rather than help after all.

Following the interaction on night 20, the haunting becomes far more aggressive than anything prior when Katie is dragged from her bed, screaming. The following day, a visibly distraught Katie reveals a bite mark left by the demon on her back. Realizing the demon has escalated dangerously, the two believe leaving the house is the only logical step, considering the demonologist is still out of the country.

The demon possesses Katie

After the attack, Katie begins to act very strangely. Micah is clearly overwhelmed by the sudden escalation and focuses on packing their things to temporarily move to a hotel. During the process, Micah finds Katie in a catatonic state, clutching a cross in her hands. She's unresponsive, and she's grasped the cross so hard that her hand is bleeding. Micah, seemingly at his wit's end, throws the cross into the fireplace and moves Katie upstairs while he continues packing. 

Once Micah has everything in order, he heads upstairs to retrieve Katie. To his surprise, Katie has had a complete change of heart about leaving the house and begs him to stay in the home with her, insisting they'll be safe there after all. Micah gives in to her request, unaware that the Katie he knew is gone for good. The next night, the camera feed shows Katie exiting the bed while Micah is still asleep. For two hours, Katie silently watches Micah sleeping before heading downstairs. Suddenly, Katie releases a bloodcurdling scream, and Micah springs into action. 

Falling victim to the demon's trap, Micah leaves the room, and the camera continues rolling as the action happens offscreen. After a few moments of Micah screaming, silence follows. Then Micah's body is suddenly thrown at the camera, knocking it down. The obviously possessed Katie crawls into the frame with a menacing grin, and just before the film cuts to black, her face changes into a demonic-like figure as she lunges, screaming at the camera.

Micah's antics empower the demon

Throughout the film, Micah is shown in a less than favorable light. Before experiencing the paranormal himself, Micah outright mocks Katie and minimizes her experiences. He is unapologetically dismissive of anything that will bring Katie any sort of comfort and is seen consistently quick to belittle and demean her feelings. However, the moment Micah realizes that what Katie is saying is real and the demon will make for a compelling video, he is quick to exploit her trauma for his own selfish ends. 

While Katie is the one at the center of all of these horrifying, traumatic events, Micah never fails to ignore her wishes and disregard her thoughts about the demon. Perhaps the most egregious of Micah's actions is his willingness to put not only himself, but Katie in direct danger to fuel his own ego. The psychic directly spelled out for Micah why communicating with the demon would be reckless, and Katie voiced her opposition to purposefully drawing the demon out on multiple occasions. Yet Micah ignores both of them, ultimately resulting in tragedy. 

Micah manages to convince Katie (and himself) that he is "in control" of this situation he knows absolutely nothing about. He gaslights Katie throughout the entire film, and by doing so, he effectively breaks her down, allowing her negative emotions to take hold. In the end, this allowed the demon a prime opportunity to take full control. So while the demon is, of course, the film's primary villain, Micah's toxicity is the catalyst that led to Katie succumbing to demonic possession.

Micah and Katie lose any sense of privacy

The demon's presence in the home makes Katie and Micah's lives a living nightmare. They basically have an uninvited roommate that is always watching their every move. Worse is the fact that this entity is inescapable; it will follow Katie even if she moves homes or leaves Micah. This means that throughout her life, Katie has lost all sense of personal privacy. She always has something with her at every waking moment.

Though the demon adds a home invasion aspect to the story, Paranormal Activity's handheld style offers a voyeuristic view into the couple's lives that also plays on the couple's loss of privacy. In every moment of the film, Micah is filming his and Katie's personal lives together. Even when the couple sleeps, the camera is rolling, refusing the two of them any amount of true solitude. Additionally, Katie both begs and demands Micah to stop filming her, but he almost always refuses. Katie's vulnerable moments, such as her session with the psychic, her fights with Micah, or her teary breakdowns, are all relentlessly recorded by Micah's camera. Whether she likes it or not, her trauma is being recorded and displayed for us, the viewers. In essence, the camera acts as yet another set of eyes within the house. Though Micah may have intended for the camera to capture evidence of the paranormal, the reality is that it further eliminates any sense of boundaries that Katie might have still had.

Loss of control is a major theme

One of the most horrifying aspects of Paranormal Activity is that the threat is something entirely inhuman. A demon defies logic; it can move in and out of spaces regardless of alarm systems, physical barriers, or other restraints. Because of this, the demon is nearly impossible to overcome with any ordinary solution. Katie readily accepts this reality, likely because her sense of agency has long been stripped due to her inability to fight against the invisible foe. For Micah, he is unable to grapple with the lack of control over his new living situation and continually tries to claim agency through nonsensical, dangerous stunts.

Though Katie and Micah react in different fashions, the end result is the same. The demon holds complete control over Katie and her household. It waits for an opportune time to make a final move, but never loses full governance over the house while Katie and Micah are left trying to cope. The film emanates a sense of powerlessness; Katie's cautiousness and common sense are rendered useless by Micah's aggressive plays for dominance. Micah quickly deprives Katie of any control she may have had over the situation. But in the end, the demon is able to effectively create a sense of helplessness in both of them.