We are kicking off the new year with yet another horror franchise ranking! If you wish to see the ones I’ve already done, click here. I’ve mentioned before that I’m not a massive fan of found footage films…however, Paranormal Activity is the absolute exception. I am a huge fan of this series. If you haven’t yet, please watch Unknown Dimension: The Story of Paranormal Activity. It came out in 2021 and is a documentary all about the making of this iconic saga. Each installment follows a similar format. A suspected haunting = cameras being set up to capture any unusual happenings. The results are always chilling to the bone. Without further ado, here is my list from best to worst movie! Spoilers ahead!
1.) Paranormal Activity 3
In first place, we have Paranormal Activity 3. This is most people’s favourite film in the franchise and I can see why. For the third installment, we travel back to the 1980’s and witness Kristi and Katie as young children. Kristi regularly interacts with an imaginary friend she calls Toby. At first, this seems quite harmless, but as the movie progresses, it is clear that Toby is a demonic entity eager to possess the girls. This is the same spirit that continues to haunt other characters later in the series. Their stepfather, Dennis, sets up cameras in their lavish mansion to capture any unusual activity, including attaching one to an oscillating fan. There was something so unnerving about watching the footage slowly pan from one room to the other. You never knew what you were going to witness. This definitely held true for the ghost blanket scene, which is one of the most effective found footage scares in cinema history. Watch the clip below to see what I mean. I loved the trip back in time and origin story of the hauntings. The acting and terror felt extremely real. This film also introduced the coven of creepy witches. I cannot say a negative thing about it!
2.) Paranormal Activity
In second place, we have the film that started it all: Paranormal Activity. If you watch Unknown Dimension, you’ll learn a lot of fascinating things about the first movie. For example, the creator, Oren Peli, shot the entire thing in his own home. The budget was so low, Oren hired aspiring actors (over well-known celebrities) and let them keep their actual names in the film. There were no special effects or CGI. Oren simply couldn’t afford it. Also, a lot of the acting was ad-libbed. This quality adds plenty of charm to a project Oren never envisioned would go anywhere. Despite its limitations, it became one of the most popular horror movies in history. It went on to gross over 7 million dollars, which allowed the franchise to continue growing. In the first installment, Katie and her partner Mika, move into a new home that begins to exhibit signs of a demonic presence. Mika sets up cameras around the house and what unfolds from there is truly terrifying. The last scene completely shocked movie-goers. It might interest you to know, Paranormal Activity has three different endings. The one we are familiar with made the most sense in the series as a whole. Paranormal Activity is such an unexpected success story that warms my heart.
3.) Paranormal Activity 2
In third place, we have Paranormal Activity 2, which serves as a sequel and prequel to the first film. It occurs two months before Katie and Mika’s story. In this installment, we follow Katie’s sister and her family, as they move into a new home with their baby boy, Hunter. When their house is ransacked, Katie’s husband sets up cameras to catch the culprit. In the typical format of this franchise, the recovered footage is much worse than they imagined. What makes a Paranormal Activity movie so successful is the justification behind the taping. Wanting to learn who is trashing your place is perfectly understandable. However, some of the later films in this list do not really provide any plausible explanations for documentation. They are ranked lower for that reason. Also, the story needs to be interesting. Paranormal Activity 2 is so captivating from beginning to end. Not only that, it has a ridiculously incredible jump-scare. The actress who played Kristi was told only one cabinet would swing open. Little did she know what was coming. Her reaction in the clip below is completely genuine. It’s a great follow-up to the debut feature.
4.) Paranormal Activity: Next Of Kin
The latest Paranormal Activity film was released in November 2021. It is the first movie in the franchise not connected to any of the others. In fact, you wouldn’t even know it was part of the same series, if it didn’t bear the same title. The seventh installment follows Margot, a young woman who was abandoned by her mother as a baby. With a documentary film crew, she travels to a secluded Amish community seeking answers about her parent and extended family. Needless to say, what they discover is deadly. The visuals in this film are stunning. It’s set in Buffalo, New York during the winter. Snow and a dense green forest surround the compound, giving viewers a sense of isolation and claustrophobia. If you’re a fan of the cult horror sub-genre, you will love this movie. There are so many terrifying scenes (the descent into the well, hiding under the bed, etc) and the build-up to the shocking ending will leave you truly disturbed. It’s excellent and I highly enjoyed it.
5.) Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones
Now we are dipping into the lower ranked films. In fifth place, we have Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones. Teenagers, Jesse and Hector, look forward to a carefree summer, but the murder of a neighbour leads to a terrifying encounter with the supernatural. After breaking into the neighbour’s apartment, Jesse and Hector find a collection of ritualistic art and other bizarre items. Soon after, Jesse finds a strange mark on his arm. His subsequent erratic behavior leads his friends and family to the realization that he is possessed. Let’s start with what I loved. This installment takes places in a Latino community, which was really nice to see after the amount of white-washing that exists in this franchise. Furthermore, the chemistry between the two best friends felt truly genuine. I enjoyed watching their dynamic, especially as tensions arose. The biggest plus however, was the ending. Whilst escaping from a fully possessed Jesse, Hector runs through a door, which happens to be a portal to the past. He winds up in Katie and Mika’s house, where the events of the first Paranormal Activity film took place. We love a crossover! We love some time travel! My only issue with this installment is the constant filming made no sense. There were so many scenes where it was unrealistic for the characters to still be holding a camera and documenting everything. Aside from that, it was a solid story with plenty of good scares.
6.) Paranormal Activity 4
In second last place, we have Paranormal Activity 4. I know this is a slightly controversial opinion but to be fair, I didn’t hate it. I just don’t rate it as highly as the others. This installment takes place five years after Paranormal Activity 2. A mysterious accident next door leads teenager, Alex and her family to become the temporary guardians of Robbie, a very creepy neighbor boy. Cameras installed throughout Alex’s home capture the sinister events that unfold after his arrival. It was great to see the return of Katie and Hunter in this film, but to be perfectly honest, the best part was the Xbox Kinect footage. I loved seeing the demonic entities move through the dots on screen. It was a very creative decision by the writers and production team. Unfortunately, I was quite bored by the rest. It took a long time to build up to anything and by then, I didn’t care. Also, there were so many times Alex’s friend films for no reason. As I mentioned earlier, this is a gripe of mine in this franchise. Even when they were talking to her mother in the kitchen, he records the conversation on camera. It made no sense. I will say, the ending was shocking and the death count is quite high in this movie.
7.) Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension
In very last place, we have Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension. By this point, the franchise was doing very well financially. Therefore, the production team decided to invest a lot in CGI/special effects, making this the first installment to produce digitally enhanced demons. This bothered fans because the charm of this series is not witnessing the entities captured on screen, but rather their poltergeist type actions. The visuals were cheesy, fake and unnecessary. What happened to a good old swinging chandelier? Furthermore, the plot wasn’t anything to write home about. Ryan Fleege, his wife Emily and 7-year-old daughter Leila are preparing for Christmas in their new home. After finding an old and mysterious camcorder, Ryan quickly learns that it can record strange apparitions that are invisible to the naked eye. When young Leila starts talking to an imaginary friend and displaying strange behavior, the couple soon find themselves in a terrifying battle with a supernatural force. In my opinion, this story had already been done. Not to mention, a friend films Ryan finding the camcorder and that in itself made no sense. I liked the portal aspect but why was this movie called The Ghost Dimension? It was established early on in the franchise that the hauntings were perpetrated by a demon named Toby, not a ghost. Also, I really wanted the Christmas tree to fall down and it never did! It just didn’t work for me.
Thank you so much for reading! Did you agree with my ranking? How would you rank this list?
Peace & Love xoxo