'Paranormal Activity 3': Will A Found-Footage Format Still Work?

the full length trailer for paranormal activity 3

[Paranormal Activity 3 has been confirmed and a release date set. Go HERE for details.]

[NOTE: This post contains MAJOR SPOILERS about Paranormal Activity 1 & 2.]

So Paranormal Activity 2 is a box office hit, and Paramount is already talking about their plans to make Paranormal Activity 3 (surprise).

However, given how Paranormal Activity 2 ended, can the next chapter in the Paranormal Activity franchise still use the found-footage format that has made the series so popular?

Before we get into talking about the next chapter, let's recap what's happened so far. For those who haven't pieced it all together yet, here's the series of events that have been established by Paranormal Activity 1 & 2:

  • As kids, Katie and her step sister Kristi were tormented by a mysterious paranormal entity. They've blocked out a lot of the memories, in forced denial of the supernatural nature of those harrowing events.
  • We eventually learn that this entity is a demon and that a shared ancestor of Katie and Kristi may have made a deal with said demon in exchange for wealth and power - a deal that would require the sacrifice of the first male offspring of the bloodline - i.e., Kristi's infant son, Hunter.
  • Kristi and her family are haunted and eventually attacked by the demon, who supposedly comes to claim Hunter.
  • Kristi is possessed by the demon and to save her, her husband Dan and step-daughter Ali perform an exorcism of sorts, with help from the family's hyper-spiritual housekeeper, Martine.
  • The exorcism ritual frees Kristi, but at a steep cost - the demon is not killed, simply transferred to the next member of the bloodline, which is Katie.
  • Katie and her boyfriend Micah are haunted and eventually attacked by the demon that Kristi's family sent their way. The demon ultimately takes possession of Katie and kills Micah before vanishing into the night.
  • A day after Micah is murdered, the demon (wearing Katie's body) reappears at her step-sister's house, looking for revenge. It kills Dan and Kristi, abducts Hunter and disappears with him.

That's pretty much the mythos that's been laid out by the Paranormal Activity franchise so far. In both installments, events took place from the point of view of home cameras and/or surveillance cameras setup by the parties being tormented by the demon. Indeed, the whole hook of these movies was the audience's fear that these kind of supernatural occurrences could - or maybe do - happen in their homes as well.

paranormal activity

However, with the demon seemingly having gotten what it was after, the "found footage" format of Paranormal Activity 3 suddenly becomes a tricky thing to factor.

Here's what Paramount Executive VP of Distribution Don Harris is saying about the studio's approach to Paranormal Activity 3: "The company is certainly going to take a look at making a third but will be exceedingly careful in how to go about it." For those of you who don't speak Hollywood PR lingo, that basically translates to: "We want to keep making money off this franchise, but we don't yet know how to do the next one."

Truthfully speaking, a lot of us were wondering just how they would pull off another home footage format in Paranormal Activity 2. Then, to my pleasant surprise, screenwriters Michael R. Perry, Christopher Landon and Tom Pabst turned the supposed sequel into a story that actually functions as a prequel/midquel/sequel, explaining how and why the events of the first Paranormal Activity actually took place, and expanding that small story into an entire mythos worthy of a franchise. Our official Paranormal Activity 2 review was fairly glowing, and even those who didn't like it have to admit: there have been far worse sequels to breakout hits (Blair Witch 2, I'm looking at you).

A scene from Paranormal Activity 2 (review)

That all said, the story for Paranormal Activity 3 would presumably cover one of two scenarios:

  • The hunt for the Katie-demon and attempted rescue of Hunter.
  • A flashback to when Katie and Kristi's family made the deal with the demon and the young girls were first tormented by the demon.

The latter option seems the highly unlikely (though not impossible), so let's go with the former.

Now, it would be easy to imagine a film where a church organization or some other group specializing in demon killing (who you gonna call?) put together a team to investigate the now multiple murders that have been left behind in the demon's wake - while documenting the whole event on video, of course. Maybe the group members are a mixed bag of supernatural believers and supernatural skeptics, and maybe their hunt takes them to some truly terrifying places, to face some truly terrifying evil. Maybe the battle for Katie's soul becomes just as important as saving that poor baby from whatever ungodly fate awaits him at the demon's hands.

Paranormal Activity 2 teaser trailer

Sounds like a reasonably good premise for a movie, right? And it was, back when it was still called The Last Exorcism. But there (beyond my sarcasm) lays my ultimate point: if Paranormal Activity 3 continues as many of us expect it to, in the same format that the series has established, the risk of it coming off as a Last Exorcism or [REC] clone is pretty high. There are only so many ways you gather a group of people, give them a camera and send them off to some strange locale on a demon hunt without the subject matter starting to blend together in movie goers' minds. The challenge facing Paranormal Activity 3 is how to distinguish itself from the pack while still tying up all the dangling loose ends. It will be interesting to see how they pull it off.

Who knows - maybe a séance at Katie's house? I'll bring the Ouija board, you bring the popcorn.

Do you have any ideas about a story and/or format for Paranormal Activity 3? Should they stick with the found footage format or branch off in another direction?

Source: The Hollywood Reporter

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