Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

Things That Happen In Every Paranormal Activity Movie

Who could've possibly imagined that an independent film costing a mere $15,000 would go on to spawn several "Paranormal Activity" sequels that'd hit theaters and streaming services worldwide for years to come? "Paranormal Activity" has become nothing short of a cash cow for Paramount, and the fan demand for more is still strong. The film was part of an era of the revitalization of the found-footage style of horror, alongside others like "Cloverfield," "The Fourth Kind," and "Rec," with decades of other films following suit after the breakout success of "Paranormal Activity" in 2009. 

In the series of "Paranormal Activity" films, audiences typically follow an unsuspecting family or group of individuals who begin experiencing malevolent hauntings. The cameras are positioned to capture the hauntings from different perspectives throughout the homes, and the films are loosely linked to one another in some surprising ways. This framework produced a litany of sequels before the return on investment began to slide as audiences became bored of the same formula. However, the series has recently made a return with 2021's "Paranormal Activity: Next of Kin" on Paramount+. 

Like any ongoing series of horror films, whether it be "A Nightmare on Elm Street" or "Halloween," the succeeding films always feel the need to maintain a sense of consistency, even if it's a detriment to the "freshness" of the material. Fans typically demand conformity or have strong expectations leaving filmmakers the careful task of creating sequels that aren't always innovative in favor of "staying safe." The "Paranormal Activity" films clearly fall into a state of repetition. Let's take a look at some of the staples of the "Paranormal Activity" formula that seem to occur in every film entry.

An ominous bass tone signals a haunting

Ever notice that unsettling feeling that exists right before a haunting? Most masters of horror know how to aptly cultivate an atmosphere of fear and tension as audiences prepare for a scare. After all, that's only how great horror ever works, right? There must be some anticipation built within the audience. "Paranormal Activity" managed to aim for simplicity in its horror build-up ensuring audiences are fixated on the screen at all times.

The demon or specter that roams the halls of unsuspecting homes in the "Paranormal Activity" series is usually prefaced and then accompanied by a low bass tone that overtakes the film's audio. Whether the people being haunted can hear the tone is unknown. But given their reactions, it doesn't seem so. Even still, audiences know when the demon is about to creep up on its victims. It still doesn't take the shock factor away when truly horrific scenes occur. That tone only fosters a measure of anxiety in audiences who then brace for the inevitable. Every film features this bass tone that begins rumbling in the background of every scene the demon enters. This particular warning sound has seemingly become a staple of the series.

The specter always starts small before intensifying

In the realm of horror, slow build-ups are often the most effective. If filmmakers pull back the curtain too quickly, everything will fall flat with the audience. When it comes to effective scare tactics in cinema, the atmosphere is everything. The makers of "Paranormal Activity" seemed to understand that well.

In each case within the series, the entity would seemingly start small. Perhaps, some noises would ring out, or a picture would fall off the wall. It's the kind of thing that could be explained away with pure logic and common sense. But then, the strange happenings continue leading the home's occupants to believe something is amiss. That's when everything starts ramping up. Of course, the scale at which hauntings then occur seems to follow an exponential curve. It's almost as if the demon has to fully ensure that his victims are sufficiently terrified in order to enact its master plans. Regardless, it's an effective way to cultivate audience anticipation to create the most horrific scares on screen in the climactic third act.

There's always a skeptic

The world of ghouls, phantoms, and demons is a curious one. Do you believe they exist? If you're on the fence or responding in your head with a negative, you're certainly not alone. It's a tricky subject that requires an element of faith unless you've actually witnessed a haunting yourself. When it comes to most horror films, however, fear not. You're often represented. There's always a skeptic and that certainly rings true in the "Paranormal Activity" franchise.

There's always one person who takes a lot of convincing in order to finally realize he or she is being tormented by a sinister spirit. Typically, that person is a parent, but that's not always the case. In the first film, Micah Sloat was the skeptic. But Katie's fears gave him all the reason he needed to buy a bunch of fun new tech to catch Katie's ghost on camera. Once he finally witnessed an unexplainable happening, he began to believe. The rest of the films always have a detractor who refuses to believe that an evil spirit is haunting their home until it's too late. More times than not, that individual also meets a grisly fate. "Paranormal Activity" isn't a simple haunting experience. It heads into dark territory with its subject matter.

The spirit is a malevolent demon

Horror aficionados know that there are all kinds of hauntings that can occur. Sometimes, the spirit means well and is only trying to communicate a potential danger like in the film "What Lies Beneath." Other times, the spirit or spirits are all about chaos and unrest as seen in "Poltergeist." And then there are some iterations of hauntings that are completely sinister by nature. These hauntings typically involve a spirit of infernal origin. That's right, we're talking about a demon.

In the first "Paranormal Activity" film, Katie and Micah incorrectly assume their spirit is friendly and begin interacting with it. Micah procures a Ouija board in order to communicate with the entity. It's all fun and games until... well, it's not. The spirit begins showing its true colors and that it intends to harm and claim souls. It's at this point that the unsuspecting couple learns that their ghost problem is actually a demon who's been stalking Katie ever since she was a youngster thanks to some good old-fashioned witchcraft from her extended family. The same demonic entity then haunts other families in the follow-up films that are all connected to Katie's story in some fashion. The only film, "Next of Kin" that is separate from the story of Katie Featherston, still utilizes a demon as its antagonist albeit a different type of demon than previously seen in "Paranormal Activity" lore.

Everything intensifies at night

There's something about the dark that makes everything that much scarier. Perhaps, it's because our vision is skewed or limited and we can't always see what's going on in the distance. Or maybe evil simply thrives where light doesn't exist. Either way, nighttime is always prime time for ghouls, ghosts, and creatures of the night in the horror genre. There's something ominous about watching the sun set knowing that its departure will likely signal terror to ensue.

This element of traditional horror doesn't change with the "Paranormal Activity" franchise. The demon tends to wreak havoc on its victims mostly at night time. Things get dicier when everyone lays their weary heads down on their pillows. The demon clearly wants his victims to experience terror when they're most vulnerable or unsuspecting. Regardless, most of what viewers will see in the film franchise are nighttime sequences sometimes using night vision technology to cut through the dark. The climax of all the films always occurs long after dusk. So, there you have it. If the films terrify that much, maybe consider taking up residence for a month in northern Alaska when everyone experiences a full month of daytime.

A twist ending

After an entry or two in the franchise, everything starts to become a tad predictable, right? The family settles in for a normal life and soon strange things start occurring. Eventually, everything goes awry and the family is plunged into horrors they couldn't possibly have imagined. Everything becomes a bit too expected... unless, there's a twist.

The "Paranormal Activity" films thrive on unexpected twists so much that a twist becomes, well, expected. The first film's twist ending was simple, Katie becomes possessed by the evil entity. The second film's twist saw Katie upend the lives of her sister's family only to kidnap her nephew. Eventually, the twist became a game of showing how each succeeding story featuring new characters was somehow tied into Katie Featherstons' story. The film that segregated itself from the Katie saga, "Next of Kin," threw a curve ball at audiences when it was revealed that Margot's mother was currently locked away and possessed by the demon and that Margot was to succeed her in suppressing the spirit from the general public. There's always a fun revelation at the end of every "Paranormal Activity" film.

Inventive use of found footage

In the late '90s, "The Blair Witch Project" burst onto the scene and truly elevated the style of low-budget horror films using the theme of found footage. It was so impactful in its use of the method that many began to believe "The Blair Witch Project" was an actual tape of real events. The aura of hype and mystery that surrounded "Blair Witch" ultimately catapulted it into horror fame and legend. "Paranormal Activity" helped to revitalize that style of filming when it hit the independent film circuits in 2007 and again when it landed in theaters nationwide in 2009.

Each succeeding "Paranormal Activity" film finds new ways of utilizing the found footage method of filming. While the first film followed Micah behind the camera as well as his nightly set-up in the bedroom, the second film began using security camera systems to broaden the scope of the supernatural happenings around the home. The third film then made use of an oscillating fan to move the camera angle around the room and play with audiences' fears and anxiety in that manner. The fourth film then made use of the Xbox Kinect to great effect. "Paranormal Activity" pushed the boundaries of the found footage method of filming and always sought new ways to innovate.

People die

We know, right? You might sarcastically be thinking, "big surprise." But you'd be surprised to learn that some horror or haunting films don't end with the sinister spirits actually killing people. "The Conjuring" is one of the most terrifying horror films in modern cinema, yet no member of the Perron family actually meets an early grave. However, this is absolutely not the case with "Paranormal Activity."

Don't get us wrong, "Paranormal Activity" isn't a slaughter fest by any stretch. In fact, there are usually only one or two deaths. Regardless, the evil entity always manages to claim some souls by the time the film wraps. Michael Sloat was the first casualty of the entire franchise. In each succeeding film, the people being terrorized have great reason to fear as some of their loved ones meet a grisly end. In the third film chronicling Katie's childhood, her dad gets folded in half like a napkin by the demon. We never saw a Jedi or Sith Lord do that with the force. And that definitely must've been a memory she repressed given her seeming amnesia over the incident in her later years. But you get our point — in every movie, people die.

There's always a human vessel

You might be wondering, what is the endgame for this demon or evil spirit? Why terrorize people? Does it just want souls? Or does it totally get a kick out of freaking people out? Well, you could say all of that is true to an extent. But those who've seen the "Paranormal Activity" films know there is a primary goal for this sinister force. It wants a human vessel.

In the first film, we witness Katie's apparent possession by the demonic entity. We then learn that the demon was promised a male child to inhabit the family line in exchange for wealth or power for Katie's ancestors. The second film shows the demon targeting her nephew, Hunter. The demon wants a permanent vessel to walk the Earth. "Next of Kin" follows the same formula except with a twist. This time, the vessel is something the demon doesn't want. Instead, the villagers are trapping the demon inside of a human vessel so that it won't be unleashed to rain destruction down on their village. Margot happens to be the unlucky soul from the family line capable of holding the demon. So, the villagers seek to imprison her and transfer the demon from its current vessel (Margot's mother) to Margot. Only, that doesn't work out so well, and Margot's mother is killed allowing the demon to escape and sow discord in the village.

Demons thrive off family history

It's all connected in the "Paranormal Activity" saga. Each film manages to find some connection to past entries in the ongoing story. Of course, as we've mentioned, "Next of Kin" is the only outlier in that regard. However, the greater part of the "Paranormal Activity" franchise is all connected to Katie Featherston and her family. This leads us to conclude one simple fact: The demon always flourishes among cursed bloodlines.

Katie's family initiated a world of hurt and terror for their descendants the moment they unleashed a demon for their own gain. Typically, stories of humanity mingling with demons usually show that the mortals never quite know what they're dealing with. In a quest for greed, they ultimately receive their comeuppance. Only, the punishment seems to be dealt out to this particular family's innocent progeny. When we look at "Next of Kin," family ties still come into play. Margot's family line is cursed to be the prison for the demon. So, if you're experiencing strange things or bumps in the night, you might do a little genealogy. Brush up on your family history and make sure nobody in the past made a deal that you're going to have to pay for.

The soundtrack of silence

In the horror genre, adrenaline and our gut instincts are the primal reactions to the ongoings occurring in the film. Production values in cinema often add to the experience enabling viewers to get swept up in the overarching journey of the film's main protagonists. Soundtracks often play a crucial role in conveying feelings and emotion that a scene is attempting to set with audiences. It's also thrilling soundtracks that are often the most memorable aspect of a film. Everyone can instantly think of theme songs to films like "Harry Potter," "Jurassic Park," and "Star Wars." Those songs also likely bring a flurry of memories to mind concerning the film and the first moments you experienced them for yourself.

Well, "Paranormal Activity" does away with all of that. In fact, there is no soundtrack at all. Believe it or not, the lack of music actually bolsters the horror content of the found footage style. It makes the experience feel all the more real. After all, would folks have thought "The Blair Witch Project" was actual footage if there was an eerie musical score plugged into the background? The absence of music also heightens our senses to just about everything else occurring on screen. Visually, audiences are rapidly scanning the scenery to see what's going to happen in the latest haunting. Audibly, we're listening for bumps or other noises in the background. A musical score would detract from all of that. As such, each of the films in the "Paranormal Activity" instead treats us to the haunting soundtrack of silence.