Paranormal Activity 3: The Unanswered Questions
Here’s the entire Paranormal Activity movie trilogy summarized in chronological order, with the connections between the films pointed out. It should go without saying that THERE ARE MAJOR SPOILERS IN THROUGHOUT THIS ARTICLE.
How does Paranormal Activity 3 tie into the other films?
Paranormal Activity 3 is set in 1988 when sisters Kristi and Katie are young (5 and 9, respectively). It is meant to chronicle the events that the girls cannot fully remember in the first two films – namely the demonic entity first coming to haunt them. The girls’ mom has a boyfriend, Dennis, who begins to film the phenomenon happening in their home. The mom, Julie, has decided not to have any more kids – much to the chagrin of her mother (the girls’ grandmother), Lois. A mysterious symbol drawn on a crawl space ceiling in the girls’ room leads Dennis to a book about a coven of witches in the 1930s who served demons by brain-washing girls of child-bearing age into having sons for the demon to collect, before wiping away the child-bearer’s memory of the event. Dennis tries to show this explanation to Julie, but she will not buy it.
The demon makes a bond with Kristi, in particular (which she refers to as her friend “Toby”). After repeated attacks, Kristi eventually promises to do the demon’s bidding in order to save her sister from harm. Kristi begs her mom to take them from the house to grandma’s house (apparently, the demon’s request), but Julie, still in denial, refuses. For “motivation,” the demon then tears apart the kitchen in front of Julie, which sends her running off to grandma’s house with the kids. Thinking they are finally safe, Julie awakens in the night to the sound of cars pulling up to Lois’ home. It is then revealed that Lois is part of the coven of witches from the ’30s that Dennis saw in the book, and that she serves the demon terrorizing them (she had the same symbol hidden on her wall that the demon drew on the crawl space ceiling). Gathered with the rest of her coven, Lois watches as the demon kills Julie and Dennis. She then leads her granddaughters up the stairs to an unknown fate, with the demon in tow.
Paranormal Activity 1 & 2
Jump to 2005, when an adult Katie delivers stuff from Lois’ old house (Lois has seemingly died) to a pregnant Kristi and her husband Dan. This includes a necklace and a box of old video tapes (Dennis’s 1988 tapes AND a set of tapes labeled “1992”). A year later, after Kristi has given birth to her son, Hunter, a “burglary” occurs at her home. Every room is completely trashed except for Hunter’s bedroom, but the only things stolen are the necklace and the video tapes. Soon after, strange paranormal events begin to occur in Kristi and Dan’s home. Their housekeeper Martine claims it is an evil spirit, tries to protect the family via prayer and incense – and gets fired for her trouble by Dan, who will not even begin to entertain thoughts of the supernatural being real in any form. Upon visiting, Katie and Kristi reminisce about that mysterious period from their childhood (which they cannot recall) that led to their family being broken, and their childhood home burning down. The events happening in Kristi’s home seem vaguely similar to deep-seated feelings the girls have of that childhood trauma; Katie is worried Kristi will ‘end up like their mother.’
Kristi’s step-daughter Ali begins to research demonic mythology, and discovers that humans could make deals with demons for wealth and power, in exchange for the soul of their first-born sons (a deal seemingly made by Lois and her coven, or Lois’ mother – possibly the founder of the coven). If the deal maker didn’t have a son, the demon would haunt the deal maker’s family until a male heir could be collected. Kristi’s infant son Hunter is revealed as the first male heir to be born into their family since the 1930s (Lois had hoped Julie would break that cycle, and encouraged her to have more children – but no such luck).
The paranormal activity in Kristi’s home begins to escalate; at one point, Kristi herself is dragged down into the basement by the demon and is kept there for hours. When Kristi is released, her family finds the basement door covered in scratches, with the word “Meus” (Latin for “Mine”) scratched in the door (either meaning Kristi or Hunter or both belong to the demon). Ali becomes convinced that Kristi has been corrupted by the demon and convinces her father of this by showing him footage of Kristi being dragged into the basement by some invisible force. Dan calls in Martine (the nanny he previously fired), who informs him that he cannot exorcise the demon completely – but he can pass the demon off to another family member. To protect his own family he decides to sacrifice Kristi’s sister, Katie. After a frightful confrontation with a possessed Kristi, Dan, Ali and Martine succeed in their plan and free her from the demon using a cross. Dan burns a photo of a young Katie (that Julie took on the girls’ first day of school) to complete the ritual (this seems to be the same photo that a few weeks later shows up in the attic of Katie and Micah’s home). Afterwards, Kristi has no memory of being possessed.
Katie, meanwhile, has just moved into a new home with her boyfriend Micah. When strange paranormal activity begins to occur in their home, Katie confesses to Micah about the strange events from her and Kristi’s childhood – events which repeated when Katie was a teenager (age 13) and now and again throughout her adult life (a time we still haven’t seen in the films). She says that it’s felt like she’s always been haunted by something, though Micah is skeptical. Nevertheless, Micah begins to record the happenings and Katie eventually hires a psychic to assess the situation. The psychic (who states his expertise is not in demons, but in ghosts) reveals that the demon feeds off of negative energy; emotional friction between Katie and Micah is only strengthening it. Events escalate as Katie finds the photo of herself that Dan burned (she thought it lost in the house fire from her childhood) and starts to show signs of being possessed by the entity. Katie visits Kristi (3 weeks after Dan sent the demon her way) and explains the strange events occurring in her home. Dan reveals nothing about what happened to Kristi.
As more and more havoc is wrought, Katie and Micah try to reach out to a demonologist – but he is out of town. Frightened, they meet again with the psychic, who is instantly panicked by the malevolent presence in the house and flees the scene. When Katie is eventually physically assaulted by the demon, she and Micah decide they will flee to a hotel. Before they can leave, however, Micah discovers Katie gripping a cross (the one used to free Kristi) so tightly that her hand is bleeding. He burns the cross and the photo of Katie in anger, and an eerily tranquil Katie then informs him that all is well. Micah believes her, reluctantly.
The next night, Katie awakens in bed and watches over Micah sleeping before disappearing downstairs. Micah awakens to the sounds of Katie screaming as if being murdered/attacked and runs downstairs to aid her. Heavy footsteps are heard on the stairs, and then Micah’s corpse is flung at the camera, revealing a fully-demonic Katie as his murderer. The next night, demon-Katie appears at Kristi’s house and murders Dan and Kristi, before taking young Hunter into her arms and disappearing (Ali was not home at the time), with her whereabouts still unknown after three films.
Does Julie (the mom) die at the end of Paranormal Activity 3?
By all accounts yes, Julie is dead. So how do we reconcile that fact with seemingly contradictory moments from PA 1&2?
Katie says the following to Kristi in Paranormal Activity 2, as she and Kristi are discussing the past:
“Wanna know what I remember? I remember you crying… all the time. I remember you couldn’t sleep and had anxiety attacks. I remember you stopped talking for months. I remember weird people coming to our house and our mom was upset all the time. That’s what I remember. Whatever it was, it thrived on fear. The more we paid attention to it the worse it got. You need to leave this alone. You need to ignore it or you’re going to end up just like mom. Do you understand me?”
In the first Paranormal Activity, Micah at one point jokes to Katie that to keep the negative energy in the house down, they need to stop inviting over her mother. But if Julie is dead, who would he be talking about?
Are these plotholes, or are they hints that there is more to see?
More likely than not, these are bits of the story that have yet to be filled in.
As Rope of Silicon points out, we never saw the girls’ house burn down in the theatrical cut of PA3 – though that scene was in the trailer. Speculation right now is that the house burning was part of a different cut of the film, as the date stamps indicate that it should’ve been in the movie. Perhaps we’ll see more about it later on in the series.
Reading between the lines of the first two films, it’s easy to assume that Lois and her coven would want to cover their tracks and dispose of the evidence – meaning burning down the house and hiding the video tapes of the demon’s presence (but not burning them, for whatever reason). As for the mother issue – speculation right now is that Kristi and Katie likely got memory-wiped and passed off to another caretaker. The “mother” referred to in the first two films could be someone working for/with Lois, an unsuspecting adoptive mother, or even Lois herself, posing as the girl’s mother. The girls may not even remember that Julie and Dennis existed (they never mention Dennis, for one thing). Hopefully the next installment will fill in that blank.
Were the Witches at the end of the film the same coven from the 1930s Dennis saw in the book? Did Lois make a deal with the demon?
The implication is that YES, the witches Dennis saw in the book were either younger versions of the women who appeared at the end of the film (or less likely: the next generation of females of the coven). At one point, when Dennis is quizzing Kristi about her imaginary friend, Toby, he asks her if the demon is “old – like grandma?” Kristi replies that it is indeed ‘old like grandma.’ At first this line seems trivial – something one would say to a five-year-old kid – but maybe not. There is clear indication that the coven Lois belongs to made a deal with the demon (back when she was young) and that the events we’re witnessing in these films have to do with the fulfillment of that deal – namely, providing the demon with a male heir from Lois’ bloodline. (Are the other women in the coven giving babies to the demon? We don’t know yet.) In PA2 Kristi’s stepdaughter Ali traces the assumed demon-dealings back to Kristi’s great-grandmother – Lois’ mother. This also opens up the possibility that Lois’ mom inducted her into the coven’s dark dealings the same way Lois has inducted her granddaughters.
During the final moments of the film, Dennis sees a shadowy figure in the windows of Lois’ house. The figure is distinctly female, and everytime Dennis goes to talk to it, he finds nothing is there. This same shadowy female figure is also seen in the Paranormal Activity 3 teaser trailer. So, is it the demon, a different spirit (perhaps Lois’ mother?), or does Lois herself have supernatural powers?
My guess is that Lois and her coven are something else besides human after their supernatural dealings. I mean, they are witches after all. There is also the fact that the deals with demons were made for wealth and/or power. Lois seems to be doing alright for herself on the wealth side (and even lectures Julie at one point about the need for financial security), so the assumption is that power was also part of the bargain. As for what powers these witches have (besides mind-wiping and conjuring demons) is again something that other installments of the franchise will need to explain.
What “ceremony” were the girls going to be a part of at the end of the film?
When Dennis, Julie and the girls first arrive at Lois’s house, the girls are playing dress up with grandma. Kristi in particular is wearing a wedding veil, and claimed that “Toby” was the husband to be. The wedding clothes upset Julie and she snatched the veil off Kristi’s head.
Now, depending on how you interpret the scene in PA2 when adult Kristi is dragged into the basement, and the word “Meus” (Latin for “Mine”) is scratched into the door, Kristi could’ve very well been married off to the demon that night – or the girls could’ve been “prepared” for the eventual time when they would come of birthing age (Katie referenced that she was haunted all throughout her teenage years during PA1, remember). Another possibility is that the girls were led upstairs to be mind-wiped of all the events they experienced through some spell. To be honest, with part of the story still unexplained (the teenage years of the girls), we can only speculate – though some kind of unholy bonding and mind-wipe ceremony is the most likely answer.
Why does the demon want a boy?
This is the big question hanging over this franchise: Why the demon want only a male heir (or more specifically his soul). Is it to possess him or sacrifice him?
Well, demon mythology is a long and convoluted thing, but the bottom line in terms of these Paranormal Activity films is: We don’t know yet. What we DO know is that there was a contract struck between some witches and a demon, and that demon has been waiting a long time to collect on the deal. Now that it has Hunter, we’re not sure what it plans to do with him – but we know that it can’t be good. If it sacrifices a baby for the sake of returning to Earth, that’s bad. If it possesses Hunter and tries to spread its demon seed using his body, also pretty bad. Either way, the next films in the series will surely reveal the answer.
What about the house burning and other scenes that were in the Paranormal Activity 3 trailer, but not in the actual film? Were they part of the story?
The Paranormal Activity 3 trailer controversy is a big one. There was SO MUCH shown in the trailers that didn’t make it into the actual film, and fans have been left scratching their heads. This includes:
- The girls’ house being on fire.
- Julie being aware of the demon’s presence and being attacked by him.
- The girls’ “Bloody Mary” game revealing a female ghost in the bathroom.
- The girls playing other games (jump off the ledge, the “knocking game”) with the demon.
- A visiting demonologist being violently attacked by the demon.
Watch the trailers below and see what we mean:
Now, in our interviews with the Paranormal Activity creator, we learned that often times they just film a bunch of material and decide what scares are the best ones to put in the film. In that sense, certain occurrences – like Julie seeing water splash over the demon or being thrown on the bed – the demonologist being attacked – might have once been shot as possible devices to advance the plot (namely, giving the family an excuse to run to grandma’s house), but those moments might’ve been trumped by the scenes we actually saw in the film (the demon finally scaring Julie by dropping everything in the kitchen onto the floor). The best scares were used in the film, the rest was left on the cutting floor and eventually recycled for the trailers. No mystery there.
However, the house burning is a big deal when it comes to unanswered questions. As stated, we may see this explanation in future installments – but why the video tapes were kept intact at all is a big question mark (why not just burn them?). As stated, we still don’t know what happened when Katie and Kristi were teenagers, so those explanations could indeed be coming with subsequent films in the series.
How do the trailer scenes not included in the movie relate to the events shown in the movie?
Again, the scenes in the trailers for Paranormal Activity 3 are clearly time stamped, so they do take place around the time of PA3. It is strange that many of the missing trailer scenes have later dates – more than likely, a previous cut of the film had them placed there. Again, these Paranormal Activity films are constructed by shooting a bunch of different “scare moments” before the filmmakers step back to see which ones are most effective. Paranormal Activity‘s ending was drastically changed from the original cut (in which Katie kills herself after killing Micah) to the theatrical cut (Katie heads off to kidnap Hunter). Paranormal Activity 2 also had trailer footage not included in the film, so this issue is not really a mystery – more like tactics of movie marketing. Paranormal Activity 3 simply took things to the extreme.
I say all that to say: things you saw in the trailers are moments they could’ve used to advance the plot, but in the end, they chose to use the material we saw in the film instead. Those trailer scenes aren’t “missing” – they’re simply the fodder you’ll find in the deleted scenes section of a DVD/Blu-ray. The only thing that really needs to be explained is the house burning down (but again, there’s strong implication that we will get that explanation at some point).
The only ting really left to discuss, then, is – Paranormal Activity 4 and where the story goes from here. Stay tuned for our post. ;-)
Below you can rate Paranormal Activity 3 for yourself.