Hey, Paranormal Activity 4: You're cute, but can we talk about your hot subplot friend?

Paranormal Activity 4 opened this weekend, and it topped the box office. Then, it was announced that there would be one more sequel and a spinoff. But what I want to know more about is the infinitely more interesting witch-related part of the Paranormal saga that is only barely touched on in the movies, but rounds out the creepiness ten-fold. Yes, we've been treated to several moments of suspense and scares throughout the four movies. But I feel like there is a whole other story being glossed over.

It won't be a long discussion, but for the sake not spoiling Paranormal Activity 4, I'll continue after the jump.

First, let's summarize the story, in chronological order, as we've seen it unfold on screen: Katie and Kristi are two little girls being terrorized by a demon in their home (1988). Their grandmother, Lois, is in cahoots with this demon and a member of a coven of witches that dates back to the 1930s. She needs the girls to be brainwashed, grow up, and bear a son to be sacrificed by the coven. As an adult, Katie moves into a brand new house (2006) with her boyfriend, Micah, but finds evidence that the demon has followed her when a burnt picture of herself as a child suddenly appears in her attic. During the move, she visits Kristi, who now has a son named Hunter, who happens to be the first boy born to the family in decades. The demon haunts both sisters, then possesses Katie, who kills Micah, then goes back to Kristi's house to kill her and abduct Hunter. Hunter then resurfaces five years later (2011), having been adopted by another family, and the demonic Katie reappears to take him back to the coven.

The most information we get, as an audience, about this spooky coven comes from people who don't know anything about it. For four movies now, we've seen people look this stuff up in books and on the internet, with only fleeting glimpses of the witches and their immensely creepy activities. There is an entire story here, and while I don't want to see the Paranormal Activity franchise go the way of the Blair Witch, maybe there's another way the filmmakers can throw fans a bone. A tablet app (like the one created for Full Metal Jacket's 25th anniversary), an interactive site, a book or graphic novel, or even a straight-to-video flick. Or maybe a very carefully crafted full-length feature. But I want to know about why these witches sacrifice children, what are they doing that might be even scarier, and how long they've been at this. What are their plans for sustaining their coven? How far are they willing to go? Are they even more widespread? Who are they?

It's incredibly easy to screw up, but there's such a good story to tell. The spinoff (set for spring 2013) will reportedly deal more closely with the Catholic-Latino aspect of the same demon, something that was hinted at after Paranormal Activity 4. But I love a good ancient witch story, and I'd really like to see more -- from the perspective of someone with more information about it.

Photo credit: Paranormal Activity on YouTube


  1. ***Contains spoliers*** I actually enjoyed 1 – 3 but haven’t seen 4 yet. I think they fit them all together really nicely apart from one little niggle. The scene at the end of 3 where the 2 girls actually see their step dad get bent in half half backwards by their invisible friend (Toby?) sort of ruined 1 and 2 for me. Surely this even would have stuck with them and at least been mentioned when haunted as adults? Did I miss something that explained that?

    1. In the third movie, Dennis (After researching the coven due to the mysterious symbol he found in the closet), explains that they take girls when they reach puberty, and brain wash them to forget what happened (And also, they take their male children).

    1. I assumed he was just a tool of the coven’s, most likely child to one of them, did you see how witches there were?

  2. I’m still reeling from the revelation that the demon was really Neville Poppenbacher in a rubber mask!

    On furthur reflection, it’s possible I never saw any of the Paranormal Activity movies, and watched a Scooby-Doo marathon instead.

  3. The witch subplot is what’s making the series stale. Asking for more of the coven is like asking for more of the cult and less of the atmosphere in the Silent Hill series.

    It doesn’t help that Paranormal Activity 4 is just Paranormal Activity 2 but far, far worse.

    1. Yeah. I mean, what’s there to *tell*? They are demon worshippers who are trying to curry favor through human sacrifice. It’s a pretty standard trope. Just about the only interesting thing you can do with it is the “Cabin In the Woods” idea that the demon worshippers *know* their objects of worship are evil but are trying to appease them so they won’t destroy the world.

      1. Well, you could take the opposite approach: the ‘demon’ being worshipped actually IS the good guy, and those being ‘sacrificed’ are actually being recruited into some noble purpose that just looks evil to a less knowledgeable perspective. 

        That would be trickier to pull off, though.

  4. The chronology is a solid recap, but just a bit off… SPOILER ALERT FOR ANYONE WHO HASNT SEEN ANY OF THEM YET STILL CARES…

    PA 3 you got right.. 1988… two little girls… psycho grandma… etc

    PA 2 is next in the chronology though… Kristi is visited *first* by the demon and the santeria ritual of the house keeper at the end temporarily saves her… she does that ritual and burns the photo… thats the photo in the attic in…

    PA 1… Katie and Micah have the demon arrive, fresh from Kristi’s house, and cause havoc…  They get a psychic who says they need a demonologist and all of that is left nowhere (a HUGE missed oppty IMO)

    At the end of PA2 the loop with PA1 is closed when Katie arrives in kill mode

    I agree that the witch plot is causing the series to go stale.  I really didn’t like PA4 at all and think its almost silly now they havent returned to the demonologist subplot oppty that seems so obvious.  If interested I ran through my thoughts on this in a similar post to this yours…


  5. Wow, I had no idea people actually cared about Paranormal Activity. You learn something new every day

  6. how do you know that the boy was definately the original hunter at the end? I watched PA4 and got the impression, that robbie was hunter and that the demon was just recruiting the other boy as another boy to use as an instrument for whatever the demons endgame is. ‘Hunter’ is just a term Katie used to mark out the next boy victim.

    anyone else think this?

    Also did anyone else think it weird that:

    1. The girl after being almost killed in the garage is completely fine the next day.
    2. The girl and her boyfriend suddenly just as all the weird shit in the house is going down stop looking at the footage after each night, which would of been more than enough proof to show there parentspolice and show that something is seriously wrong and getting out their would be the wisest option.

    Overall i stil really liked this film althought it is the weakest out of the four, like others i would really like to see more about the withcraft background.

    Also what about this for an idea for paranormal 5: Katie gets picked up by police and kept in mental hospital, and all the footage is created from the cctv which you’d get in that kind of establishment. You then can get shit happening to lots of people all at the same time.


    1. In PA4 the equipment stops working. You repeatedly see Alex complaining at her laptop to ‘freaking work already’. So I’m guessing they stopped watching because the demon did something inexplainable to disable the recorders.

  7. You could always read M. R. James’s short story “Lost Hearts” (1904), or watch the 1970s BBC adaptation. I can guarantee that any modern ghost story about witches raising children for child sacrifice is going to borrow heavily from James.

    (And speaking of M. R. James, when is the film industry going to us the definitive film of “Casting the Runes,” which James fans have been waiting for at least since the studio-botched 1957 Night of the Demon? Karswell is one the greatest horror villians of all time.)

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