Paranormal Activity 3′ reinvigorates horror

The horror movie genre has been around in the industry for almost as long as movies themselves. The earliest horror films were based on literary classics such as Frankenstein, The Phantom of the Opera,and Dracula.

Now, it seems horror movies can be about almost anything. There are cult classics, such as George A. Romero’s zombie movie Night of the Living Dead. Also, there are big budget franchises such as the Saw and Final Destination movies, and smaller, independent movies such as Let the Right One In and The Blair Witch Project.

“I enjoy watching the evolution of film more than anything else,” senior Jessica Kohler said of the change in the genre. “From the cheesy B-movies with chocolate syrup blood to now, where the magic of CGI makes everything look frighteningly believable, horror movies are a great way to thank Hollywood for the changes they’ve made in cinematography.”

A recent example of these changes is the “Paranormal Activity”franchise. The first film, made on an estimated budget of $15,000, was a largely critical and commercial success, grossing over $107 million domestically. The success of “Paranormal Activity” spawned two additional films, the third of which, “Paranormal Activity 3,” is being released Friday, Oct. 21.

The first “Paranormal” movie changed the horror market, making note that just because a movie’s budget is cheap doesn’t mean that the movie can’t be good. The film took place over the course of three weeks as a woman and her husband are haunted by a demon, which the wife claims has been following her since her youth. They set up a camera each night to try and discover what is happening, and the results are both surprising and horrifying.

The first movie was set in the present, while the sequel was set only two months before the original, with some events running parallel to the first “Paranormal Activity.” The newest one takes the action all the way back to the childhood of the original’s female lead, and to where all the horror began.

But what keeps people coming back for more sequels and more horror movies?

Christopher Sharrett, a professor in the department of Communication and the Arts, said, “I think young people enjoy horror films as a way of getting conditioned for real life, as an instinctive need, since no scary movie equals the upsets one faces in a lifetime.”

According to an article in The New York Times, “Paranormal Activity”was released at midnight in only 13 college towns before it expanded across the nation and has employed digital marketing techniques since such as Twitter, Facebook, contests and having students “demand” the movie at So why are these movies appealing to college students? What about the horror genre keeps them coming back?

Sophomore Tess Giordano explained why she likes watching horror movies.

“It’s fun to be scared! It’s fun to escape, be a little scared, and come out of it and think ‘Thank God life isn’t really like that!'” Giordano said. “Also, I keep watching them to find one that actually really scares me. The ultimate scary movie.”

Chris Duquette, a senior Radio Broadcasting major, said that he loves to see new things in horror.

“From the 60s and 70s to now, it’s fun to see how things are constantly changing, since there isn’t a lot you can do with the basic structure of a horror movie,” he said. “It’s fun to see something original.”

“Horror films have various sorts of appeal,” Sharrett said. “At their best, they are powerful metaphors for our society. They deal with the question of the Other, that which we are told to hate and reject. The horror film at its best asks, ‘who are the real monsters?’ Unfortunately, these franchises burn themselves out as the same ideas are repeatedly without much variation.”

For some, the thing that keeps people coming back is the belief that filmmaking can always provide something new, even if it is in the realm of cheap horror movies. At the core of this popularity is the desire to be scared for a little while, because at the end of the movie you can go back out into the light and go on with life. For the rest of us, we avoid horror movies, perhaps because we would rather not know what might be lurking in the shadows.

Mary Kate Martin can be reached at

Author: Staff Writer

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