Paranormal Activity is a 2007 American supernatural horror film produced, written, directed, photographed and edited by Oren Peli. It centers on a young couple (Katie Featherston and Micah Sloat) who are haunted by a supernatural presence in their home. They then set up a camera to document what is haunting them. The film utilizes found-footage conventions that were mirrored in the later films of the series.
Originally developed as an independent feature and given film festival screenings in 2007, the film was shot for $15,000. It was then acquired by Paramount Pictures and modified, particularly with a new ending that cost an additional $200,000. It was given a limited U.S. release on September 25, 2009, and then a nationwide release on October 16, 2009. The film earned nearly $108 million at the U.S. box office and a further $85 million internationally for a worldwide total of $193 million. Paramount/DreamWorks acquired the U.S. rights for $350,000. It is the most profitable film ever made, based on return on investment, although such figures are difficult to verify independently as this is likely to exclude marketing costs.
The film is the first (chronologically, the third) entry in the Paranormal Activity film series. A parallel sequel and prequel, Paranormal Activity 2, was released in 2010. The success of the first two films would spawn additional films in the series: the prequel Paranormal Activity 3 in 2011, and Paranormal Activity 4 (the sequel to the second installment) in 2012. The fifth installment, Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones, was released in 2014, and the sixth installment, Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension, was released in 2015. A seventh film, Paranormal Activity: Next of Kin, will be released in 2021.
In 2006, San Diego couple Katie and Micah are facing a dilemma regarding a demon that has haunted Katie since childhood, which psychic Dr. Fredrichs suggests is feeding off negative energy and intent on tormenting her. Katie takes Dr. Fredrichs’ advice seriously, while Micah uses a camera to record any ghostly activity and goes against advice of not handling the situation without a demonologist. The camera initially captures many strange occurrences in the bedroom during the nights; they start off as mundane such as only noises, flickering lights, and bedroom door movements before escalating into more violent occurrences such as door slamming, loud thuds, and demonic grunts and screeches. Katie, on one night, appears to be in a trance; she gets up, stands beside the bed staring at Micah for two hours, and goes outside, none of which she recalls the next day.
Micah brings home a Ouija board. When the couple leave the house, the camera records an unseen force moving the board's pointer to form an unknown message on its surface, which then spontaneously catches fire. Katie is increasingly aggravated by Micah's actions and demands him to stop, but he refuses. The couple, on another night, find footsteps on baby powder Micah sprinkled in the hallway and outside the bedroom door. Its path leads to a burnt photograph of a young Katie in the attic, previously thought to have been destroyed completely in a house fire. Outside intervention is unavailable at this point, as the only contactable demonologist is out of the country and Dr. Fredrichs is afraid of making the demon angrier. That night, Katie is pulled out of the bedroom by an unseen force. Micah discovers a bite mark on Katie's back the morning after, motivating him to get out of the house, but Katie abruptly insists on staying.
On night twenty-one, Katie gets out of bed again and stares at Micah for two hours before going downstairs. Katie screams for Micah and he quickly rushes to help her. Afterwards, Micah screams in pain. After a moment of silence, Micah's body is violently hurled at the camera which is knocked off the tripod, revealing a demonic Katie standing in the doorway with blood on her shirt. She crawls to Micah's body, then looks up at the camera with a grin. As she lunges toward the camera, her face takes on a demonic appearance just as the scene cuts to black and another growl is heard. Micah's body is discovered by the police on October 11, 2006, and Katie is not found.