Why Ending the Paranormal Activity Franchise Is a Fantastic Idea
Bye bye, Toby.
Producer Jason Blum has confirmed that Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension is absolutely, 100% the last movie in the franchise. Well, until the inevitable reboot rears its demonic head in a few years. Until that happens let us savor the moment when a lucrative movie franchise, that’s so far netted $800 million worldwide on a combined budget of $18 million, decided that everyone involved owns a sufficient amount of yachts.
As is always the case, time will tell when it comes to Blum’s statement ringing true — but based on what we know of this closing chapter it really is time to wave bye bye to those demons. And it’s a fantastic idea. Here’s why:
The ‘found footage’ schtick is worn out
After The Blair Witch Project caused an entire wave of cinemagoers to soil themselves watching a film shot on a budget of $600,000, the floodgates to found footage opened. It wasn’t the first movie to achieve its goals with the use of cheap, handheld cameras (Cannibal Holocaust has that honor) that produce jerky shots and instant nausea for audiences. But it paved the way for Oren Peli’s first Paranormal Activity in 2007.
That technique is no longer a novelty. Once it might have been cutting-edge to dissolve the blurry line between fiction and fact, encouraging a jarring assault on the ego (“This could happen to me!”). However, a movie market saturated with faux found footage movies — because hey, they’re super cheap! — has countered that effect, making them more commonplace. And therefore, easier to predict.
Technology advances… but not that fast
Each successive chapter ups the technological ante; a mirror to our tech-obsessed culture of habitual smart phone usage. The first saw Katie and Micah kit out their abode with his set of videocameras to document the bumps in the night. The second film shifted focus to her sister, Kristi, with installed CCTV. The third, a throwback to bulky ‘80s camcorders. In part four, the Xbox Kinect motion-tracking grid captures the unseen movements and teenagers using Skype for conversation.
If scoring the interest of a younger demographic requires tech they can identify with, where else is there? Something akin to Periscope could be incorporated in future chapters, a live-stream allowing people across the globe to tune in to watch an innocent family perish. But when the best scare in the whole franchise was created by attaching a camera to a rotating fan, newer isn’t always better.
Giving up the ghost
There’s only so long an audience can be held captivated by an unseen terror. The horror lurking in your own imagination — those hideous images mustered up by your brain’s chemistry — are far more scary than anything a filmmaker can conjure. And yet, the offscreen presence that’s skittered about the periphery of the franchise is finally getting his close-up. The relentless demon Toby, whose name implies he’s actually a Terrier and not a hellish spawn of satan, will make his onscreen debut in Ghost Dimension. Once we see him, as glimpsed in the above trailer, will we still be afraid of what appears to be Groot’s evil twin?
Law of diminishing returns
An $800 million payout on a $18 million investment isn’t to be sniffed at. The bulk of that combined total stems from the first and third instalments which netted $193 and $207 worldwide respectively. And while the second, fourth and fifth (spinoff, The Marked Ones) hardly bombed, they each took a substantial chunk less than their predecessors. In short: moviegoers aren’t returning in the record-breaking numbers of yester-year.
It sets a precedent
Choosing to quit while you’re ahead works in Vegas, but in Hollywood it’s an unheard-of protocol. There’s always more green to be had. And so Blumhouse’s decision to cease production on future films sets a new standard that’s
*gasp*… about the content.
“One of the challenges of Hollywood, because movies are so expensive, is everyone is always looking back to hit movies and repeating them,” said Jason Blum. “That’s everyone, and that’s what I would do too if we made expensive movies. You have to if you’re spending a lot of money. Our movies are not expensive, so one of the benefits of that is that I really encourage our filmmakers to go forward and try new stuff.”
As artistic and creative expression emerges victorious in the war against the never-ending franchise, there are plenty of other series that should take a leaf out of Paranormal’s book. But they probably won’t.