The alternate endings of Paranormal Activity

Paranormal Activity

So we rented Paranormal Activity on Friday night. Actually quite a scary movie. Made for something like $15,000, it’s gone on to make millions – and deservedly so.

The idea is that weird things are happening to a middle class couple, Micah and Katie, who live in San Diego. Katie’s been haunted since she was five by something that’s probably a demon – not a ghost – and has followed her to her new home, now she’s moved in with day-trader Micah. Things move by themselves, she’s seen figures standing at the foot of her bed, and so on.

The weird things happen in the night, so Micah gets himself a camcorder, connects it to a laptop, and tapes everything that goes on.

And we get to see everything that happens to them.

It’s all a bit Blair Witch and uses most of the same techniques – apparent cinema verité, filming at night, largely improvised dialogue, unknown actors – to try to convince you that terrible things are happening. Not much ever happens, but it’s the constant build-up of tension, the failure to use OTT special effects, the general weirdnesses that do happen, etc, that really play with your mind, letting you imagine the worst.

On the whole, not as scary as Ghostwatch, which actually does a better job of things visually, but scary and clever all the same.

In a moment, for those of you who haven’t seen it, the trailer. Then after the jump, let’s those of us who have seen it discuss the ending – and the alternate ones.

So, you may or may not know that the ending that we have in the theatrical version isn’t the original ending – that was changed by Dreamworks (and Steven Spielberg allegedly) after they acquired the original movie. The original cut of the film sent to potential distributors was 20 minutes longer. Several scenes present in the cinema version were absent, such as Katie discovering her keys on the floor and finding the broken picture frame. The original film also included an extended scene involving video footage of a possessed girl (whose story on the internet was read by Micah) chewing off parts of her own body, and also a scene of Katie vomitting blood.

This was the original ending – it’s kind of hard to find though:

Another version of the film was shown at only one public viewing. This ending is offered as an alternate ending on the DVD and Blu-Ray release of the film. In it, Katie returns to the bedroom after the screaming and noise of her and Micah struggling downstairs. She is holding a knife and covered in blood. She closes and locks the bedroom door. Katie walks over and stares into the camera, then slits her own throat. Unfortunately, no video clips since they keep getting removed from YouTube, but here’s a screenshot.

Katie slits her throat in the alternate ending of Paranormal Activity

You get the idea, anyway.

So which do you think is the better ending? On the one hand, the original ending is more in keeping with the rest of the film. It’s clever, it’s low-key, there’s nothing filmically (that’s not a word, I know) supernatural about it. But it’s also a little unsatisfying and a little dull. I like it, but I can see why they went for the new ending by preference.

The current ending, I’m not sure about. It scares the crap out of you when Micah comes flying towards camera, and Katie’s weirdness is disturbing. On the other hand, it’s a special effects, Hollywood generic horror moment. I wouldn’t say it entirely breaks the suspension of disbelief, since that happened for me when Katie got dragged off a little earlier in the movie. But it’s clearly the point where it says “We are making a movie for sure.”

I haven’t seen “Katie and knife” ending, but for me that looks like the best of both worlds. It makes about as much sense as the original – was the demon really messing around just so Katie could suffer “death by cop”? – but is quicker, suitably nasty and still says “demonic possession”.

But how about you?


  • Rob Buckley

    I’m Rob Buckley, a journalist who writes for UK media magazines that most people have never heard of although you might have heard me on the podcast Lockdown Land or Radio 5 Live’s Saturday Edition or Afternoon Edition. I’ve edited Dreamwatch, Sprocket and Cambridge Film Festival Daily; been technical editor for TV producers magazine Televisual; reviewed films for the short-lived newspaper Cambridge Insider; written features for the even shorter-lived newspaper Soho Independent; and was regularly sarcastic about television on the blink-and-you-missed-it “web site for urban hedonists” The Tribe. Since going freelance, I've contributed to the likes of Broadcast, Total Content + Media, Action TV, Off The Telly, Action Network, TV Scoop and The Custard TV.