The title of this article will be met with one of two possible reactions:
1. A fist pump while mouthing the words, “Hell yeah!”
2. A fist through the computer screen while shouting the words, “Are you f*#%ing kidding me!?!”
There is no in between.
But the interesting thing is this: that only strengthens the argument that Paranormal Activity really IS the best horror franchise we’ve ever seen.
I can’t recall a horror movie franchise, or any film franchise for that matter, that has polarized people as much as Paranormal Activity. If you look at a film series like Harry Potter or The Twilight Saga you’ll find huge, rabid fan bases that love these movies more than anything else on the planet; but the flip side isn’t hatred, it’s simple apathy. You either love these films or you just haven’t seen them, and have no intention of seeing them.
It’s not hatred, it’s a lack of interest.
Paranormal Activity, on the other hand, is either loved or reviled. And, unlike the franchises mentioned above, the people who hate on PA, I believe, actually have watched them. Or at least some of them. (And, FYI, if you haven’t seen them then, go away, you forfeit any right to an opinion.) But this near universal split down the middle actually helps the argument that Paranormal Activity really is the best horror franchise we’ve ever seen.
Think about it. What’s the worst thing that can happen to a movie, especially a horror movie? It’s not controversy, or anger, or boo’s while throwing popcorn at the screen. No, the worst thing that can happen to a horror movie is...crickets. A total disregard. Yawns against the back of the hand while wondering if you left the oven on. People pretend these movies are “boring,” but you don’t get as worked up as these haters do over something that “bores” you. I’m bored by people droning on and on about fishing, or their idea for a revolutionary new product that combines the common garden hose with a mountain lion; but I don’t punch the wall, I just don’t get involved.
So what, you ask, is so damn good about this series? Why should I join the insane Cult of Stupidity that loves these movies, instead of staying a safe distance away while stroking my pompous belief that I’m smarter than everyone else?
Well, 3 REASONS. And I realize all of these are purely subjective, so you can dismiss it all based solely on that basis, but before you do try this: substitute ANY OTHER horror franchise while reading these reasons, and I’ll bet you they don’t hold up. I dare you.
Reason #1: It Tells an Actual Story.
Regardless of your feelings toward this franchise, it can’t be denied that Paranormal Activity and its sequels are all connected by a single, coherent story, that is actually building to a final conclusion; and it’s a pretty damn good story, too. How many other horror franchises can say that? Friday the 13th? I don’t think so. Halloween? Try again. A Nightmare on Elm Street? Perhaps, though I think most would agree that after the original the sequels were really just rehashes of the original premise. They didn’t really further a story. The only thing that comes close is Alien, but even the most casual horror fan will agree that after parts 1 and 2 the quality of the series diminished greatly. Hell, even the director of Alien3 (the great David Fincher) doesn’t like to talk about it. I say, Point to Paranormal Activity.
Reason #2: The Quality of Each Film has Stayed (almost) Consistently Good.
I’m not talking strictly about critical praise, because, let’s face it, NO horror movie franchise is exactly beloved by critics. Does anyone remember the glowing reviews of Halloween 5? Or the “Oscar buzz” surrounding Friday the 13th Part VII? No, of course not. When I say quality of the films I’m talking about audience satisfaction, and, if you’re a fan, you agree that the PA franchise has managed to stay pretty dang consistent as far as what audiences want; with one glaring exception. The elephant in the room. Yes, I’m talking about Paranormal Activity 4. It was a genuine stinker, I’m not going to try and say it wasn’t. It felt like filler. It felt like the first installment that was made to fulfill a contract or meet a deadline. BUT, the franchise redeemed itself with the very satisfying and inventive Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones.
I posted an article where I ranked all the Friday the 13th movies from worst to first, and people were angry by where I placed some of the films, calling them crap and whatnot. And I’m betting these rants were coming from fans! So, even the best franchises have their fair share of garbage entries. But after five films Paranormal Activity has only had one that truly dropped the ball. Again, Point to Paranormal Activity.
Reason #3: It’s F*#cking Scary!
Yes it is. Yes. It. Is. If you’re bored by these movies then you’re not trying. Then, I’m sorry, but your imagination has been spoiled by video games and Vin Diesel movies. The Paranormal Activity films are creepy. As hell. And they’re not, as many pretentious critics try to argue, just a collection of “jump scares.” I can count on one hand the number of actual jump scares in the entire Paranormal Activity catalogue: One. That’s right. It happened in PA 2. A woman is sitting in her kitchen when all the cabinet doors suddenly burst open. That was a jump scare. And that’s it. These critics don’t know what the hell a jump scare is, because you know what movies are nothing but a collection of jump scares? The Conjuring. Insidious. These movies are nothing but demons and monsters literally “jumping” out from nowhere.
Let’s face it, even films like Friday the 13th are pretty much nothing but jump scares. I swear to God in one Friday the 13th movie (I don’t remember which one and I’m not looking it up) a couple of the doomed teenagers opened a closet door and a cat jumped out! I swear this happened! So, face the truth, people: MOST horror movies live in Jump Scare City. But Paranormal Activity actually plays with tension and atmosphere brilliantly. The makers know it’s what you’re waiting for to happen that is far scarier than being pounded over the head with creatures and gore. Alas, Point to Paranormal Activity.
Yeah, yeah, you’re still not convinced. Well, I can’t help you. Haters gonna hate and all that garbage. If you still won’t join my Cult of Stupidity then it’s probably because of one of two reasons: you simply hate “found footage” movies outright, so you had no intention of giving this franchise a chance no matter what anyway; or, you are just the type of person who needs constant images flying at your face; and you can’t handle a scene that drones on for more than 30 seconds before you’re reaching for another Red Bull and your phone to check for facebook status updates, waiting for the next loud and obnoxious image to remind you your attention span is now shorter than the line for Grown Ups 2.
But I’m confident in the belief that Paranormal Activity is better than most, if not all, other horror franchises out there. I’ve accepted my place at the Cult of Stupidity table. We’re a discerning bunch, whether haters want to believe it or not. We know what’s scary. And Paranormal Activity is scary as a muthaf*cka.
Because what’s truly scary isn’t a monster jumping out from behind the door; it’s the waiting, the wondering, the dreading the moment when the monster might jump out from behind the door. That’ll give you goosebumps, my friend; and f*cking nightmares.