Full disclosure: I’ve never been big into ghost and possession films, and I’ve also never been big into the found footage genre. However, as I get older and closer to the age of needing a Hoveround chair and Jitterbug phone, I’ve been trying to be a little more open-minded to some of the films I’ve been missing out on with my stubborn tastes.
As such, I’ve recently decided to give the ‘Paranormal Activity’ franchise a watch for the first time, and I do have say that I liked all of these films. To me there’s not a bad film in this series, but I wouldn’t necessarily consider myself a fan of this franchise either. With the exception of one film, I don’t think I’d ever feel the need to revisit this franchise again.
That’s not a slam on this franchise, by the way. They just don’t grab me like other films and franchise’s do, but I do understand that this does have its fans. My ranking is here is not perfect and not definite; it’s coming from the place of a casual fan and not a hardcore one.
With that out of the way, here is my ranking of all six films from least favorite to favorite:
6) ‘Paranormal Activity 4’ (2012)
– There are aspects of this film that I like, and aspects that I find “Meh”. For the most part, it worked as a follow up to the second film and is one that does expand on the lore from the previous three films. I liked the misdirection of which child is the now six-year-old Hunter Rey, although the kid they lead you to believe is him for most of the film just vanishes after the reveal. The characters in this felt a little bland – well, I did like the Dad – but everyone else not so much. There was a huge missed opportunity with the “missing” knife, which I thought for sure would have come to use in the final act, but no, they squandered that for a cheap jump scare that went nowhere. I liked this one as a sequel, but it does have its flaws, and stands as the weakest in the franchise.
5) ‘Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension’ (2015)
– The sixth film isn’t bad overall; I liked the story and the characters, and it slightly wrapped up the over-arching storyline while also giving us an ending that opens up the possibilities to expand this series in terms of scope, which is something I hope they take advantage of in the upcoming sequel that was recently announced. But the big negatives for me here are how heavy they leaned on CGI, making me miss the subtilty of the early films, and at this point the backstory of sisters Katie and Kristi is a little too convoluted; going back to the first two films, it’s hard to believe that those two characters were so bound to the life of the Coven – especially Katie in the first film, who seemed so eager to get rid of the thing haunting her and so unsure of what it was.
4) ‘Paranormal Activity 3’ (2011)
– It was really cool seeing a prequel about Katie and Kristi as children, even though it doesn’t match at all with what Katie told Micah in the first film about her past. As with how I felt about ‘Ghost Dimension’ being convoluted with the backstory of the sisters, the same can be said for this film too. In the first film Katie states that these things happened to her, and that she saw something always at the foot of her bed, and that while her sister witnessed these things, they didn’t happen to her – and yet here we are with a story primarily focused on Kristi being the one with the most interaction with the demon, Tobi. Regardless of this nitpick, the third film has a lot of really cool visual gags and likeable characters, particularly step-dad Dennis, who gets a pretty rad death.
3) ‘Paranormal Activity 2’ (2010)
– It was an interesting choice to have this one set two months before the events of the first film while focusing on Katie’s sister, Kristi. At first, I thought it was an odd choice to do a prequel about Kristi, given what Katie said in the first film about her past, but I’m more forgiving on it here than I am with some of the other sequels because Kristi is the one with the first-male child, so it made sense for the demon to target her side of the family first given the lore they establish for the franchise beginning with this film. There are some good moments of tension and terror here, and I really dig how the film ends full circle by diving post-first film with the appearance of possessed Katie showing up in the final moments. I do have to say that it was a dick move on Kristi’s husband Daniel to intentionally transfer the haunting to Katie, and in a way, he got what he deserved.
2) ‘Paranormal Activity’ (2007)
– The first film is a subtle and effective horror film about a couple, Katie and Micah, trying to deal with the strange things happening in their home. What I liked about this is that at the start of this film, they’ve already dealt with some strange happenings, and that it’s not even a totally new occurrence to Katie. The fact that it’s something she’s dealt with since childhood sets this apart from most of these types of movies, which usually focus on the protagonists experiencing the supernatural for the first time as the stories unfold. Micah seemed like a bit of a dick in his persistence to solve this himself – if only they called the demonologist when they had the chance, their fates might have been different… But, then again, there would be no movie and franchise if they did. I think this film did a good job escalating the tension and terror as it went on, and I really liked the ending.
1) ‘Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones’ (2014)
– Is it weird that I like the fifth film the best? Probably. But this is one that I really, really liked, and is most likely the only one I’ll have the desire to watch again. I liked the characters a lot and found this to be the most interesting story in the franchise. The way this film expanded on the lore by introducing “The Marked Ones” intrigued me, and seeing Jesse’s evolution – or rather de-evolution – as the evil consumes him is fantastic. It also has the most satisfying third act of the franchise, with Jesse’s close friends Hector and Marisol joining up with two gang members to siege the farm house of the coven, which is a very entertaining sequence – and then there’s the twist ending in which Hector, while fleeing for his life, going through one of the special doors and exiting to Katie and Micha’s house in 2006, giving us a glimpse of what happened at the end of the first film from a different perspective. Although probably not a popular opinion, this is my favorite of the bunch.
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