Paranormal Activity is a 2007 American supernatural horror film written and directed by Oren Peli. The film centers on a young couple, Katie and Micah, who are haunted by a supernatural presence in their home; it is presented in the style of “found footage,” from a camera set up by the couple in an attempt to photograph what is haunting them.
Paranormal Activity premiered at Screamfest Film Festival in North America on October 14, 2007, and was shown at the Slamdance Film Festival on January 18, 2008. It received a limited U.S. release on September 25, 2009 and nationwide release on October 16, 2009. The film earned nearly $108 million at the U.S. box office and $194 million worldwide Paramount/DreamWorks acquired the U.S. rights for $350,000. It is one of the most profitable movies ever made, based on return on investment, although such figures are difficult to verify independently as this is likely to exclude marketing costs.
In 2006, Katie (Katie Featherston) and her boyfriend, Micah (Micah Sloat), are a young couple who recently moved into a two-story tract house in suburban San Diego, California. Katie claims that a ghostly presence has haunted her since her childhood and believes that it has followed her to their new home. She hires a psychic, Dr. Fredrichs (Mark Fredrichs), who assesses that she is being haunted not by a ghost, but by a demon. He says the demon feeds off negative energy, and its intent is to haunt and torment Katie no matter where she goes. Before leaving, he advises them not to taunt or communicate with the demon, and to contact demonologist Dr. Johan Averies for help. Instead, each night, Micah mounts a video camera on a tripod in their bedroom to record any paranormal activity that might occur while they sleep in the hopes of solving the problem himself.
The camera manages to capture several supernatural phenomena which remain minor at first, including the bedroom door moving by itself, and the sound of rapid footsteps downstairs. As Micah consistently taunts the demon, the phenomena gradually grow worse, including loud bangs and inhuman noises reverberating from deep within the house. One night, Katie awakens to spend several hours standing by the bed staring at Micah while he sleeps before going outside to sit on the backyard swing. Micah awakens and goes in search of her, but when he tries to convince her to come inside she refuses, her voice dreamlike and detached. When Micah goes inside to get her a blanket, he finds the TV turned on in the bedroom and is then startled by Katie, who has followed him inside but says that he woke her up. Micah shows Katie the recording in the morning, but she has no recollection of any of it, including the conversation they had at the swing. Katie, already irritated by Micah’s flippant response to the situation, becomes irate when Micah brings home a ouija board despite Dr. Fredrichs’ warnings. While the two are out of the house, the Ouija board’s planchette moves on its own and a small fire erupts on the board, extinguishing itself moments later. The next night, Micah sprinkles talcum powder in the hallway and later the couple finds non-human footprints leading to the bedroom from the attic. In the attic, Micah finds a burnt photograph of a young Katie, which was previously thought to have been destroyed in an unexplained house fire.
The morning after a particularly intense haunting, a loud bang is heard and they discover the glass over a photo of them has been smashed with Micah’s image scratched underneath. Dr. Averies is abroad when Micah finally agrees to invite him, so Dr. Fredrichs comes instead. Upon his arrival, Dr. Fredrichs immediately has a sense of dread. He apologetically leaves despite their pleas for his help, stating that his presence is only making the demon angry. Two nights later, Katie is dragged out of bed and down the hallway by an invisible force. Hearing her screams, Micah gives chase and seizes her back; the next morning they discover a gruesome bite mark on her back. Stressed and exhausted, the couple decide to go to a hotel. Later, Micah finds Katie gripping a crucifix so tightly that it bloodies her palm. Micah, angry at a situation he cannot control, burns the crucifix and the picture found in the attic. Just as Micah is set to leave, a suddenly apathetic, languid Katie insists they remain at the house, claiming that they’re "going to be okay now", her voice sounding resigned and flat.
Later that night, Katie awakens to once again stand and stare at Micah while he sleeps. After standing and staring at Micah for approximately two hours, Katie goes downstairs into the darkness. After a moment of silence, Katie lets out a blood-curdling scream, waking Micah who rushes to her while the camera records what sounds like a struggle downstairs. The screams then stop, and a brief silence is followed by the sound of heavy footsteps coming up the stairs. After another brief silence, Micah’s body is violently hurled at the camera, knocking it over. Katie then slowly walks into view, her clothing soaked with blood. Crouching over Micah’s body, she sniffs him before slowly looking at the camera with an evil smile and then lunging toward it, with her face adopting a demonic appearance right before the screen cuts to black.
The film ends with an ending title card stating that Micah’s body was discovered three days later by the police, and that Katie’s whereabouts remain unknown.