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Can 'Paranormal Activity' be the new 'Saw'?

November 18, 2010 |  7:15 am

Paran
For a sequel that could easily have played like a cynical cash-in, "Paranormal Activity 2" drew millions of filmgoers and garnered some pretty solid reviews to boot. That challenge hurdled, Paramount has now set out to tackle the next one: turning the supernatural adventures of Katie et al. into an annual event.

The studio disclosed Wednesday that it was beginning work on "Paranormal Activity 3" for next year, with the idea to release the movie the week before Halloween, just as it did the second film. But can the "Paranormal" franchise be as durable as the "Saw" franchise created by Wan, Bousman and & Co.? [Warning, some spoilers below.]

There are some factors working against it. Bloodfests about a tortured man who becomes a torturer, as the "Saw" films are, have a history of becoming long-running franchises ("Friday the 13th" and "Nightmare on Elm Street," for instance). Movies about demonic possessions tend to be one-offs ("The Exorcist" or "The Omen," say).

And "Paranormal" is a lot more about the unseen than the explicit, which usually makes for better reviews (and maybe movies) but a trickier marketing campaign, since the trailer has to sell more on story than on image. (It's also an issue because "Saw" upped the level of explicitness to continue reeling in filmgoers, and to do that with "Paranormal" is to take away the creepy off-camera vibe that's made the movies distinct in the first place.)

But the "Saw"-"Paranormal" comparison is starting to seem a lot more plausible than it did even a month ago.

For one thing,  both franchises create a central mystery that can be teased out over multiple installments, "Lost"-style. (In "Saw's" case, the identity of Jigsaw and how he got to be that way; in the instance of "Paranormal," it's the demonic force pursuing the movies' victims.)

"Saw" also developed trademarks that were easy to sell even as characters and plot lines multiplied, such as someone (John Kramer) whom we come to hate even as we understand how he became that way. "Paranormal" has that with Katie, who after the end of "Paranormal Activity 2" is clearly set up as the normal-person-turned-havoc-wreaking-villain.

"Paranormal's" haunted-house franchise still has a way to go to create the mythology that "Saw" has managed in its seven years and becoming the kind of horror comfort food that is sold as much on familiarity as expectation.

And reliably putting together a new movie year in and year out isn't easy (something "Paranormal" learned this year with a frenzied, last-minute production schedule that resembled a college sophomore the night before a biology final). The machine creating it doesn't seem quite as developed yet, either. Outside studio Lionsgate, "Saw" had a number of key members of the so-called Splat Pack, while "Paranormal" at the moment has a smaller group (producers Jason Blum and Steven Schneider and original creator Oren Peli, now a producer).

But more people have turned out to see the first two "Paranormal" films than came out for "Saw," at least 25% more. And with "Saw" flagging, there's a Halloween slot begging for something new -- or maybe even, to use a "Paranormal" verb, demanding it.

-- Steven Zeitchik

twitter.com/ZeitchikLAT

Photo: 'Paranormal Activity 2.' Credit: Paramount Pictures

 RECENT AND RELATED:

Critical Mass: Paranormal Activity 2

Lionsgate moves Saw 3D to avoid faceoff with Paranormal Activity 2

Paranormal Activity 2 trailer shows...little activity


 
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PA has been a hit because it doesn't rely on the slasher-type style that other movies have. It's psychological. As long as it continues to do that, it will be successful. The mind is a powerful tool; using that is FAR scarier than anything on the screen.

Very much looking forward to Paranormal Activity 3.

Got to know some spoilers about the plot.

The story will be set 24 hours after the killings of her sister and brother in law. Katie will eventually develop into a person who can conceal the demonic presence inside of her whenever it serves her purpose. She will take a regular part-time job and will take care of the her sis's son as well. What she doesn't know is that the demon inside her was a member of a human family once, centuries ago. The demon inside Katie is a man. But one of the demon's sisters returns to extract her vengeance as Katie's demon has been killing humans without involving his family, much to her annoyance. The female demon possesses the baby boy in the house. The baby boy starts to play mind games on Katie. One of the scenes being talked about by Paramount is when Katie hears the noise of a creaking door around 3 am in the morning. As she walks down the stairs, she is suddenly startled by the TV switching itself on – and the TV is showing Beyonce's "Baby Boy" featuring Sean Paul. As soon as she proceeds towards the TV to switch it off, the remote control races towards her head and whacks her on it. There is a blood curdling growl let out by Katie's demon, followed by the muffled laughter of a baby which seems to be coming from the washing machine in the attic. As Katie lifts up the lid of the washing machine, she sees detergent oozing out of it. This is the moment when the baby will slam the door of the attic which will be punctuated by the sound of a woman whimpering. Katie lunges towards the door which flies off its hinges on to the nearby refrigerator, cracking it open. Katie's body jerks to a stop when it sees that inside the refrigerator is the head of the baby. Katie is suddenly weakened and moans/purrs in a very low note, and her knees buckle. At this moment, the chandelier comes crashing down on her and decapitates her. The baby then looks at the camera with a mischevious smile, as a dark shadowy figure comes and picks it up and hugs it.

The camera focuses on the figure. It is revealed to be Micah.


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