Monday Morning Quarterback Part I
By BOP Staff
October 24, 2011
Kim Hollis: Paranormal Activity 3 became the biggest October opener as well as the biggest horror opener of all-time with its $52.6 million take. To what do you attribute its success?
David Mumpower: In a strange way, Paramount Pictures has shown more reverence to a $15,000 production than George Lucas demonstrated with either Star Wars or Indiana Jones. Rather than discard the original by replacing its ideas with more established commercial packaging, the Paranormal Activity franchise has now employed the same unknown actress twice more than anybody ever expected. Katie Featherston has a better career after two years than Heather Donahue has managed in a dozen years. The rarity of this behavior is such that Donahue is still the best analog for Featherston. Studios protect their investments by casting established names. The fact that she and sweet, stupid Micah have worked three times since the original speaks volumes about how carefully Paramount Pictures has protected this particular intellectual property. Rather than dropping everything but the name as Artisan Entertainment did with The Blair Witch Project, Paramount has taken the bold step of working backward in creating not one but two prequels, making this something of a first in the industry, a fractured time prequel. I bet Steven Soderbergh is kicking himself over the fact that he didn't think of this first. The tender loving care shown in the creation of this backstory has created a high level of viewer trust in the product, a behavior that the studio system unfortunately doesn't accomplish often. I wasn't surprised by the spectacular spike from the opening of the first film to the second and I'm not in any way surprised that a very good second film spiked interest in the third film. This is that rare instance where art and commerce have melded into a massive moneymaking franchise that is maximizing profits in every way possible.
Reagen Sulewski: I still marvel that people can be convinced in ever increasing numbers to pay money for basically the same movie three times. I do think that reviews influenced this number heavily, as this was a project that would be very vulnerable to a slip in quality. The savvy move here was handing it over to a couple of documentarians who appear to have an innate understanding of how to handle this kind of footage. Maybe 1% of the people who go to see this will know who Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman are, but it was probably the biggest move they made to ensure there's a Paranormal Activity 4.
Joshua Pasch: PA3 was successful, in short, because it is a high quality horror flick (a rarity) - and it is part of a supremely well marketed franchise.
I had the pleasure of seeing PA3 at a 10 p.m. screening last week in NYC. The crowd was PACKED with high school aged students who had been waiting in line much of the day to see the film. I had no idea how electric the crowd would be, and it was immensely enjoyable.
Sure, PA1, 2, and 3 feature a lot of the same tricks, but those tricks are quite effective. The introduction of the oscillating fan/camera into this third entry was enormously important to making tension last for such long stretches. In an audience of a couple of hundred folks, all of us were on edge when we were supposed to be on edge, and we were laughing when they wanted us laughing.
The negative sentiments that I've read/heard about the PA franchise comes from two groups: those who really dislike horror films and those who seem to resent the fact that such a killing has now been made three times over using the same low-budget, found footage conceit each time.
My two cents: haters are going to hate. Let them. The movie was frightening Halloween fun. I hope that come next October, for PA4 they add just enough (a la the oscillating camera/fan) to make it feel fresh.