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Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Oren Peli|
|Written by||Oren Peli|
|Edited by||Oren Peli|
|Distributed by||Paramount Pictures|
October 14, 2007 |
(Screamfest Film Festival)
September 25, 2009
86 minutes |
99 minutes (Director's Cut) 
Paranormal Activity is a 2007 American horror film written and directed by Oren Peli. It premiered at the Screamfest Film Festival in the US on October 14, 2007, and was shown at the Slamdance Film Festival on January 18, 2008. The film received a limited release in several US cities on October 9, 2009, and had a nationwide release on October 16, 2009.
The movie centers on a young couple, Katie and Micah, who are haunted by a supernatural presence in their home. The movie is presented using "found footage" (a type of film style) from the camera set up by the couple to capture what is haunting them.
The film has earned over $100 million at the US box office alone, on a reported budget of $15,000. Paranormal Activity is one of the most profitable movies ever made, based on return on investment. However, such figures are difficult to verify independently and likely exclude marketing costs. The film was nominated for "best first feature" in the Independent Spirit Awards 2009.
- 1 Plot
- 2 Alternate versions
- 3 Cast
- 4 Production
- 5 Release
- 6 Reception
- 7 Sequel
- 8 Related media
- 9 References
- 10 External links
Katie and her boyfriend Micah are a young couple who recently moved into a two-story tract house in suburban San Diego, California. Katie claims that a ghostly presence has haunted her since her youth and believes that it has followed her to their new home. She hires a psychic, Dr. Fredrichs, who assesses that she is being haunted not by a ghost, but by a demon. He says the demon feeds off negative energy, and its intent is to haunt and torment Katie no matter where she goes. Before leaving, he advises them not to taunt or communicate with the demon, and to contact demonologist Dr. Johan Averies for help. Instead, each night, Micah mounts a video camera on a tripod in their bedroom to record any paranormal activity that might occur while they sleep in the hopes of solving the problem himself.
For several nights, the camera manages to capture supernatural phenomena, such as objects moving on their own, lights and televisions switching on and off, and sounds ranging from voices and growls to footsteps and loud thuds. The strange occurrences soon involve Katie awakening to spend several hours standing by the bed staring at Micah while he sleeps and going outside to sit on the backyard swing, none of which she remembers the following morning.
Katie, already irritated by Micah's making light of the situation, becomes irate when Micah brings home a ouija board, despite Dr. Fredrichs' warnings. While the two are out of the house, the Ouija board's planchette moves on its own and a small fire erupts on the board, extinguishing itself moments later. That night, Micah sprinkles talcum powder in the hallway and later they find non-human footprints leading to the bedroom from the attic. In the attic, Micah finds a burnt photograph of a young Katie, previously thought to have been destroyed in a house fire.
The next day, they discover the glass over a photo of them has been smashed with Micah's image scratched underneath. Dr. Averies is abroad when Micah finally agrees to invite him, so Dr. Fredrichs comes instead. Upon his arrival, Dr. Fredrichs immediately has a sense of dread. He apologetically leaves despite their pleas for his help, stating his presence is only making the demon angry. Two nights later, Katie is dragged out of bed and down the hallway by an invisible force. Hearing her screams, Micah gives chase and seizes her back; the next morning they discover a gruesome bite mark on her back.
Stressed and exhausted, the couple decide to go to a hotel. Later, Micah finds Katie gripping a cross so tightly that it bloodies her palm. Micah, angry at a situation he cannot control, burns the cross and the picture found in the attic. Just as Micah is set to leave, a suddenly calm Katie insists they remain at the house.
Later that night, Katie awakens to once again stand and stare at Micah while he sleeps. She then goes downstairs into the darkness and begins screaming. Micah wakes up and runs after her, while the camera, left on its tripod, records what sounds like a struggle downstairs. The screams suddenly stop, and a brief silence is followed by the sound of heavy footsteps coming up the stairs. Micah's body is violently hurled at the camera, knocking it over. Katie slowly walks into view, her clothing soaked with blood. She crouches over Micah's body, smiles at the camera, then lunges toward it as the screen cuts to black. An ending title card states that Micah's body was discovered a few days later by the police, and Katie's whereabouts remain unknown.
When the original independent film was acquired by Paramount, several changes were made. Some scenes were cut, others added, and the original ending was scrapped, with two new endings shot, one of them being the one seen in the theatrical version. The ending shown in theaters for the movie's nationwide and worldwide release does not match endings previously seen at the Screamfest and Burbank screenings.
The original cut of the film, sent to potential distributors was twenty minutes longer. Several scenes present in the theatrical version were absent, such as Katie discovering her keys on the floor and finding the broken picture frame. The original film also included an extended scene involving video footage of a possessed girl (whose story on the internet was read by Micah) chewing off parts of her own body, and also Katie vomits blood. This version's ending did not involve Micah's body being thrown at the camera, but instead featured Katie returning to the bedroom at 3:15 am from downstairs, wielding a knife with blood on her clothes. She then sits next to the bed and rocks back and forth in a catatonic state. Around 6:15 am, Micah's alarm rings. At 1:55pm, Katie's friend Amber calls the house, and later arrives at 9:00 pm, discovering Micah's body downstairs. When police officers arrive 30 minutes later, they find Katie rocking beside the bed with a knife in her hands. The police instruct her to drop the knife, but she keeps coming towards them and eventually gets shot down when one of the policemen is startled by a door slamming behind them. The movie ends with audio of the police discovering the camera as the credits roll.
One other version of the film was shown at only one public viewing. Katie returns to the bedroom after the screaming and noise of her and Micah struggling downstairs. She is holding a knife and covered in blood. She closes and locks the bedroom door. Katie walks over and stares into the camera, then slits her own throat. This ending is offered as an alternate ending on the DVD and Blu-Ray release of the film.
- Katie Featherston as Katie
- Micah Sloat as Micah
- Mark Fredrichs as Dr. Friedrichs, a psychic
- Amber Armstrong as Amber, Katie's friend
- Ashley Palmer as Diane, a possessed girl seen on Internet videos
The original version additionally features:
- Randy McDowell as Lt. Randy Hudson
- Tim Piper as Richard
- Crystal Cartwright as the exorcism nanny
First-time director Oren Peli had been afraid of ghosts his entire life, even fearing the comedy film Ghostbusters, but intended to channel that fear into something positive and productive. Peli took a year to prepare his own house for shooting, going so far as to repaint the walls, add furniture, put in a carpet, and build a stairwell. In this time, he also did extensive research into paranormal phenomena and demonology, stating, "We wanted to be as truthful as we could be." The reason for making the ghost in the story a demon was a result of the research pointing to the most malevolent and violent entities being "demons". The phenomena in the film takes place largely at night—the vulnerability of being asleep, Peli reasoned, taps into a human being's most primal fear, stating, "If something is lurking in your home there's not much you can do about it."
Attempting to focus on believability rather than action and gore, Peli chose to shoot the picture with a hand-held home video camera. In deciding on a more raw and stationary format (the camera was almost always sitting on a tripod or something else) and eliminating the need for a camera crew, a "higher degree of plausibility" was created for the audience as they were "more invested in the story and the characters". Peli says that the dialogue was "natural" because there was no real script. Instead, the actors were given outlines of the story and situations to improvise, a technique known as "retroscripting" used in the making of The Blair Witch Project. In casting the movie, Peli auditioned "a few hundred people" before finally meeting Katie Featherston and Micah Sloat. He originally auditioned them individually and later called them back to audition together. Peli was impressed with the chemistry between the actors, saying, "If you saw the [audition] footage, you would've thought they had known each other for years." During a guest appearance on The Jay Leno Show on November 3, 2009, Sloat and Featherston explained they each saw the casting call on Craigslist. Featherston noted they were originally paid $500 for their work.
The film was shot out of sequence due to Peli's self-imposed 7-day shooting schedule, though Peli would have preferred the story unfold for the actors as he had envisioned it. Sloat, who controlled the camera for a good deal of the film, was a former cameraman at his university's TV station. "It was a very intense week", Peli recalled, stating that the film would be shot day and night, edited at the same time, and would have the visual effects applied to it as the acting footage was being finalized.
Post-production and distribution
The film was screened at 2007's Screamfest Horror Film Festival, where it impressed an assistant at the Creative Artists Agency, Kirill Baru, so much that CAA signed on to represent Peli. Attempting to find a distributor for the film and/or directing work for Peli, the agency sent out DVDs of the movie to as many people in the industry as they could, and it was eventually seen by Miramax Films Senior Executive Jason Blum, who thought it had potential. He worked with Peli to re-edit the film and submitted it to the Sundance Film Festival, but it was rejected. The DVD also impressed DreamWorks executives Adam Goodman, Stacey Snider, and finally Steven Spielberg, who cut a deal with Blum and Peli.
Dreamworks' plan was to remake the film with a bigger budget and with Peli directing, and only to include the original version as an extra when the DVD was eventually released. "They didn't know what to do with [the original]," said Blum; they just wanted to be "in business" with Peli. Blum and Peli agreed, but stipulated a test screening of the original film before going ahead with the remake, believing it would be well-received by a theatrical audience.
During the screening, people began walking out; Goodman thought the film was bombing, until he learned that the viewers were actually leaving because they were so frightened. He then realized a remake was unwise. Paramount Pictures, which acquired Dreamworks in 2005, bought the domestic rights to the film, and international rights to any sequels, for $300,000 USD. The theatrical release was delayed indefinitely because Paramount had put all Dreamworks productions on hold. Meanwhile, a screening for international buyers resulted in the sale of international rights in 52 countries. Only after Goodman became production chief at Paramount in June 2009 did the film finally get slated for a fall release.
On September 25, 2009, the movie opened in thirteen college towns across the United States. On his website, director Oren Peli invited internet users to "demand" where the film went next by voting on eventful.com. This was the first time a major motion picture studio used the service to virally market a film. Twelve of the thirteen venues sold out. On September 28, Paramount issued a press release on Peli's website, announcing openings in 20 other markets on Friday, October 2, including large-market cities such as New York and Chicago.
On October 3, it was reported that a total of 33 screenings in all 20 markets sold out and that the movie had made $500,000 domestically. A day later, Paramount announced that the film would have a full limited release in 40 markets, playing at all hours (including after-midnight showings). On October 6, Paramount announced that the movie would be released nationwide if the movie got 1,000,000 "demands" on eventful.com. The full limited release of the film started on Friday, October 9. On October 10 the Eventful.com counter hit over 1,000,000 requests. Paramount announced soon after that the film would get a wide domestic release on Friday, October 16 and then expand to more theaters on the 23rd. By November it was showing in locales worldwide.
Paranormal Activity was released on DVD and Blu-ray Disc on December 29, 2009. The home release media includes an alternate ending to the theatrical version, in which Katie slits her own throat in front of the camera, then collapses to the floor. On 22 March 2010 will release in the UK on DVD and Blu-Ray with some specials.
Based on 175 reviews collected by Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an overall approval 'certified fresh' rating from critics of 82%. Movie critics James Berardinelli and Roger Ebert each awarded it 3.5 stars out of a maximum of 4 stars. Entertainment Weekly critic Owen Gleiberman gave Paranormal Activity an A- rating and called it "frightening...freaky and terrifying" and noted that "Paranormal Activity scrapes away 30 years of encrusted nightmare clichés." Bloody Disgusting ranked the film sixteenth in their list of the 'Top 20 Horror Films of the Decade', with the article saying "Peli deserves props for milking the maximum amount of tension out of the spare, modern setting – an ordinary, cookie-cutter tract home in San Diego. It doesn’t sound very scary, but Peli manages to make it terrifying. If you aren’t white-knuckling your armrest at least once or twice while watching it, you probably don’t have a pulse." However, David Stratton of the Australian version of At The Movies remarked that "it was extremely unthrilling, very obvious, very cliched. We've seen it all before."
The film opened on September 25, 2009, to 12 theaters taking $36,146 on its opening day and $77,873 on its first weekend for an average of $6,489 per venue. It took more success when it opened to 33 theaters on October 1, 2009, doubling the box office reception, grossing $532,242 for an average of $16,129 per venue, bringing the 10-day total to $776,763.
As it expanded to 160 theaters on the October 9–11 weekend, the film grossed $2,659,296 on that Friday having a per-theater average of $16,621. It went on to gross $7,900,695, which was $800,000 more than originally estimated. Over the weekend, the film reached the week's highest per-theater average of $49,379, coming in at #4 for the weekend, behind Couples Retreat, Zombieland, and Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. Over the weekend of October 16, 2009, Paranormal Activity expanded to 600 more theaters, grossing $19,617,650 with $25,813 per theater average gross, and bringing the total gross to $33,171,743. On the weekend of October 23, 2009, Paranormal Activity rose to #1, beating out the expected number one box office victor Saw VI, earning $21,104,070, expanding to 1,945 theaters for an average of $10,850 per theater, compared with the $14,118,444 gross from 3,036 theaters, and $4,650 average for Saw VI. The film has grossed $107,918,810 domestically and $34,471,305 in foreign markets, with a total gross of $141,917,283.
Paramount has hired screenwriter Michael R. Perry to create the follow-up and is planning an October 22, 2010 release. Oren Peli, the director of the first film, will serve as a producer for the sequel. Kevin Greutert, director of Saw VI, was initially hired to direct the sequel. However Lionsgate Films have since exercised a clause in Greutert's contract to have him direct the next film in the Saw franchise. No director is currently attached to Paranormal Activity 2, but the full acting cast is expected to return for the sequel.
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