'Paranormal Activity': Ten Lessons We've Learned


By Jessica Marshall

Like that fly you just can't seem to swat, that pesky terrifying demon from the "Paranormal Activity" movies is back for more subtle, found-footage style torture in the suburbs. Guess we're left with no choice but to turn off the all the lights, fire up our night-vision cameras, and let the jump-scares ensue as we watch the new installment, "Paranormal Activity 4," hitting theaters this week.

Wait no, hold on a minute. Didn't we learn anything from the last three films?

"Paranormal Activity 4" picks up 5 years after "Paranormal Activity 2" ended, when the (spoiler!) demonically possessed Katie steals her nephew Hunter and murders his parents before disappearing. As "PA 4" picks up, they've turned up living in a house in a new neighborhood. After Katie is admitted to the hospital, the family next door generously takes in Hunter (whose name is now mysteriously Robbie). But their act of kindness is repaid with terror, as paranormal activity that matches the silent but deadly MO of "Toby" (as the demon is nicknamed in "Paranormal Activity 3") begins to unfold. The audience is given a glimpse into these occurrences through the laptop, Microsoft Kinect, and other a/v tech of the family's teen daughter, Alice.

While we have a sneaking suspicion that "Paranormal Activity" movies tend not to have happy endings, we nonetheless have a little advice for the new subjects of Toby's torture. Let's hope they can take a few hints. Here are 10 things we've learned from the first three "Paranormal Activity" movies:

It's never just the wind.

Those creaky noises, sudden breezes and mysteriously misplaced objects in Katie, Kristi and Julie's houses were never the result of Mother Nature's tender caress. They were always the result of malevolent demonic activity plaguing them. We don't think this demon has changed his haunting tactics and style. He seems too old-school for that.

That's not a trick of the light.

Moving shadows, flickering lights and power surges caught on videotape cannot be explained away innocently. Especially at night.

Pay attention to your kids' imaginary friends.

The precocious young Kristi befriends an imaginary friend named "Toby" in "Paranormal Activity 3." Her mom, Julie, and her sister, Katie, think it's a harmless phase. Until Toby starts trying to kill them. If they'd listened to Kristi and the reports of her misadventures with Toby, maybe things may have turned out less deadly.

Haunted houses aren't always old and decrepit.

It doesn't have to be 100 years old, creaky and cobwebby for the "PA" demon to take up residence. In fact, the stealth approach afforded by a more modern establishment probably works more toward its advantage anyway.

Always watch the tapes.

If you're going to go through the trouble of setting up a video camera to catch supernatural activity, you should be watching the tapes. Micah (PA 1), Dan (PA 2) and Dennis (PA 3) got a little lazy in their review of footage and missed some major proof that should have saved their lives...by sending them running for the hills, far far away from that crazy, cursed family. Maybe this time around, with more advanced and accessible technology in the form of a laptop and a Kinect, Alice won't be so remiss?

Demons love kitchens.

At least, this one does. In each movie, there's at least one scene in which the nice, neat and quiet kitchen explodes. You know it's coming, but it will get you every time. Let's hope Alice's family isn't too attached to hanging out in the kitchen.

Don't taunt the demon.

When you discover that a demon is terrorizing you and your loved ones, don't get all indignant and try to tease it. That didn't work out so well for Micah.

Animals, teens, concerned friends and cleaning ladies are always right.

If one of these characters has a bad feeling about what's going on in the house, do not dismiss it. Martine the cleaning lady, Abby the dog and Ali the teen stepdaughter from PA 2 and Randy the AV nerd from PA 3 smelled the evil and weren't shy about it. The only reason they're all still alive is that they listened to their instincts. The main focus of this next installment is a teen, so intuition should already on her side, according to this logic.

Passing a demonic curse onto another family member doesn't solve your problems.

Does this ever work? Nope. It just backfires. Don't even think about trying it, new family.

Don't try to make a sex tape.

There are many reasons not to do this, but in the context of the "Paranormal Activity" universe, it doesn't "behoove" anyone involved. It just behooves their dust-covered floors.