In the wake of the worst reviewed entry in the series and disappointing opening weekend numbers compared to the last two films, many may wonder about the fate and direction of the Paranormal Activity franchise. Even though it managed to land the top spot at the box-office, Paranormal Activity 4 made $22 mil. less than its predecessor and only recieved a “C” cinemascore from general audiences. I can’t say I was totally shocked when I heard this. In my review I had mentioned that this sequel “triggers the downfall of the series.” My negative thoughts on the fourth film in no way reflects my general attitude about the franchise. In fact, I absolutely love the first film and was shocked that I felt the same about the phenomenal third film; the less said about the second is the best. I actually had a newfound zeal and excitement about the Oren Peli produced series after Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman returned for the fourth film. Theories about where the series might go filled my brain when it was announced they were returning to the helm. The fact that my speculation didn’t come true in the story of PA4 didn’t hamper my opinion of the film. I genuinely feel that it is an inferior film to the other films and feels like an unnecessary stepping stone in the mythology surronding Katie Featherstone. Now that PA4 is done and has passed, fans and critics of the series will now wait for the sure to be announced fifth film. It’s not a question of whether Paranormal Activity 5 will exist or not, but where it goes from here was a question that many most likely asked following the midnight screenings early Friday morning. Let’s take a look at one direction that I feel the series could benefit from.
From here, I would like to warn those who have not seen the previous four films that the rest of this article WILL CONTAIN SPOILERS! Proceed with caution.
I believe that there’s now a clear trajectory that Oren Peli has for the series. There’s not a chance in hell that he ever presumed that the series would continue after his initial low-budget haunting. But the series and its future must have then had some sort of loose plan when going into the second film. I personally enjoy the minimalist approach to the scares and how the story is developing this mythology of a secret coven of witches, demonic symbols, and two important figures at the center of it all: Katie and Hunter. Joost and Schulman are aware that the unknown is a lot of times creepier than spelling out everything for the audience. As a result, the duo gave audiences just enough info and creepy images in the third to hint at this satanic group while still maintaining a sense of mystery. PA4 drops the 80′s prequel setting of the previous film and brings the weird symbols and not so nice witches to the modern light. Other than that . . . the new film really doesn’t serve any other function. Katie finally gets Hunter back even though there really shouldn’t have been any reason why she would need to give him away to an adoption agency and then retrieve him a few years later. The best way to describe PA4 is that it seems to be stalling in order to get to the real juicy stuff; which I hope to speculate on shortly. Which begs the question: Why did the story of PA4 need to even exist? Why didn’t they do in the fourth what they look to have set up for the fifth? I guess we won’t know for sure until Paranormal Activity 5 gets released next year (in all likelihood), but I honestly contend that PA4 is a useless film in the series. To further prove my point, I have a theory where the fifth one will go – which might actually serve as the final chapter in the series – which should have been the basis for this recent film in the series.
PA3 sets up that Katie’s grandmother was a member of a coven of witches who were waiting for a member of the Featherstone bloodline to have a first born son. The grandmother – who appears to be involved in an agreement with some Satanic force – takes Katie and Kristi with her which connects the dots with the events that take place in the first two film. The original finds Katie being haunted by “Toby” before ultimately becoming possessed by him/it, and the second shows Katie kidnapping Kristi’s first born son Hunter. Now that Katie has Hunter it seems all the pieces are lined-up for a big event. While PA4 fails to deliver the meaning behind it all (although, the tagline stated “everything has led to this“), I believe the fifth will in fact deliver the goods. I debated with the idea of Toby being the one who truly impregnated Kristi thus giving birth to what should be the son of the devil. Since Rosemary’s Baby is with out a doubt the most famous horror movie regarding witchcraft, I doubt the filmmakers would steal a page from that film to flesh out their story. So, there is also the possibility that Katie and her new coven of witches needs to sacrifice Hunter to appease the Dark Lord in order to fulfill some “agreement.” However, this would seem odd since she somehow gave the baby up for adoption as is inferred by the fourth film. Why wouldn’t Katie perform this ritual a while ago when Hunter was younger? All of this leads me to believe two things. One, being that Hunter needs to be a certain age in order for some sort of ritual. Secondly, Hunter is not meant to die but serve another purpose: ACT AS A VESSEL FOR THE DEVIL TO ENTER INTO OUR WORLD. This seems to be the only rational idea. In reference to him being a specific age, I can only speculate that Hunter needs to be fully mature (he needs to go through puberty) and has to have a body with the proper strength in order to be prepared for the full power of the Devil to enter into him (that’s not to be read sexually). Maybe Hunter would explode otherwise if he was too young and weak; which would no doubt produce a hilarious Scanners-esque sequence. So, I go back to the idea that Hunter is meant as the human form for the Devil to rise. He’s not some sacrificial lamb as you may be lead to believe. Kristi in PA3 describes Toby as an old man, and in the original film, hoof-like track marks are shown leading up to Katie’s bedside. Maybe the half-man/half goat needs a younger body to enter this world. I go back to the thought that the fourth finds the filmmakers procrastinating and avoiding to give us the real story. We see Hunter a little bit older now but nothing really more. Now, if the fifth follows my theory, it should show Hunter a little older in his teenage years in high school. In order to incorporate the found footage aesthetic that all of the films are connected by, the filmmakers could obviously show the security camera footage taken from around the school grounds. Especially in today’s society, it is all too common to have video surveillance in the halls and around the school. Along with the school video feed, a creative way to incorporate another aspect of found footage is if Hunter carried a Flip or Mini DV Camera to record his events for a school project or if he was an aspiring filmmaker. Somehow this idea has yet to be utilized yet. Even if these ideas of how the found footage gimmick could be used don’t come to fruition, the idea of Hunter being held captive at some point in the fifth and having a bizarre ritual performed on him by Katie and her coven of witches seems inevitable. Not to mention that it would make for a really terrifying sequence. Depending if they do in fact approach this idea, they could end the series with the Devil coming to Earth and leave it at that. End the series with a bang! The idea of the Devil/Toby going around in teenage form creating death and destruction in his wake might be too good of an idea though for the studio to just let go. A whole new series could almost branch off of this idea and take the Paranormal Activity films out of the creaky doors and swinging chandeliers and into bloody deaths and shocks. The name Hunter now carries a whole new meaning. It’s an interesting thought that could either make or break the series depending on how it was approached.
Whether or not all of this comes true or not doesn’t really matter. The series will continue on and fans will eagerly await the next chapter in the saga. All of my thoughts and ideas are purely speculation and should be treated as so. As a fan of the series (for the most part) I’m highly curious where it will go next and I have a premonition to where the studio and Oren Peli may take the franchise. The films may end like the Saw franchise if they continue to underperform at the box-office. I just hope that it doesn’t take seven films like that series in order to get to the conclusion of Katie, Hunter, and Toby’s story.
Because of the popularity of the Paranormal Activity films and the avid fans the series has spawned, I encourage you to leave your own thoughts in the comments below. I am sure I’m not the only one who has ideas about where the franchise should go next.