Sleep is becoming one of the crisis points of late modernity, as the steady encroachment of the “24/7” plugged-in world only intensifies sleep’s already uncanny nature.[i] To sleep is to slip into a realm of darkness, irrationality, and the supernatural, a realm that is not only profoundly opposed to the contemporary illuminated world but that has always lain uncomfortably close to death. Indeed, the Western way of sleeping has been described as a “lie down and die” model.[ii] To walk or talk while sleeping, in particular, is to act in ways divorced from the world of light and reason, to act without volition and the consent of the mind. The body that acts becomes something other than the person it appears to be, producing uncanny doubles and evoking the profoundly uncanny uncertainty as to whether, as philosopher Dylan Trigg puts it, “‘I’ am truly identifiable with my body itself.”[iii] Horror films in the twenty-first century in particular have turned to sleep to exploit its inherent uncanniness and the way it suggests that we are not always in control of who we are and what we do.
The sixth and possibly final installment of the Paranormal Activity series (2007 – 2015) is due out today (Friday October 23)—in limited release—and the word is it will answer all fans’ questions about the franchise.
So, what questions do we have? As it turns out, I, at least, have plenty.
-1. Most pressingly, what do the witches (and Toby) want?
Hints about what the witches and their demonic leader, Toby, want have been slowly doled out across all five films, but they are still not at all clear. They seem mostly to be after boys. In PA2, Kristi’s step-daughter Ali reads something online about how people have been known to make a demonic pact by which they get power or wealth in exchange for offering up the first-born male in their family. The suggestion is that Kristi and Katie’s grandmother (Lois), who is part of a coven of witches, made such a pact and so Toby now wants Kristi’s son, Hunter.
The coven clearly pre-dates Lois, though, since, in PA3, Dennis shows Kristi and Katie’s mother, Julie, a photograph of a witch coven from the 1930s and reads from a book about a ceremony by which the witches would take the sons of pregnant girls, brainwashing them (it’s not clear if they brainwash the boys or the girls) so they remember nothing.
Released in 2010, Paranormal Activity 2 provides a prologue of sorts to the horror that was portrayed in the first film. I chose the second installment of this franchise to rewatch because it best lays out the mythology of the film as well as providing far more character development that what we saw in the original film. In a nutshell, the film follows a family that is being haunted by a demonic spirit. When the lead female character becomes possessed, the family takes drastic measures to save her and the baby whose very existence inspired the return of the spirit.
One thing I’ve been struggling with is the monster as a disembodied force in the Paranormal Activity franchise. Read more
After a brief hiatus, the next installment in the Paranormal Activity franchise will be returning in October 2015. Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension will apparently turn back to Katie (Katie Featherstone) and, according to producer Jason Blum, will explain everything.[i] One thing I wonder if the film will explain is the photograph of Katie (with her boyfriend Micah) in the first installment, Paranormal Activity (Oren Peli, 2007), that quite clearly is not a photograph of Katie.