Here it is folks, an exhaustive roundup of the entire Paranormal Activity series which was just put to rest a few weeks ago with Paranormal Activity: the Ghost Dimension. Suffice to say if you don’t want to be spoiled on any of the movies you have definitely come to the wrong place!
Have questions? Hopefully they are answered below as we attempt to pick through the many story strands and confusing plot twists that criss-cross this big wadded up, damp mess of a film series. And it started so well!
The Most Concise Summary Possible For Those Who Want To Skip to the End:
A coven of witches known as The Midwives sacrifice first born boys to allow demons to enter our world in exchange for worldly goods and success. A young girl is kidnapped by her grandmother, a member of the coven, and prepared for the day when she will give birth to a boy who will become the vessel of a demon known as “Toby.” The demon’s manipulations and terrorizing actions destroy a family and leave the majority of them dead. Other families are drawn into the nightmare as The Midwives assemble an army of demonic young men to protect them. They then utilize time travel through the Ghost Dimension in order to bring everything they need into one unholy space so that “Toby” can be reborn.
If you don’t want to read the epic saga that unfolds in the words below you can now go right to the end and read some closing thoughts on the series and maybe leave some feedback or theories of your own! Those of you taking this journey with us, take a deep breath and let’s try and make sense of this series by looking at it in the chronology established by the films. Hopefully this makes more sense, what with 2 and 3 actually being set before the original. Here we go!
September 1988, Santa Rosa, California:
Katie and Kristi live with their mother Julie and her boyfriend Dennis. Katie is the older of the two having just turned 8 and they are the product of a past relationship. Dennis is very keen on recording the events in his new family’s life such as Katie’s birthday. With Katie turning 8 years old a change comes over the house the family lives in. Dennis works from home recording and editing wedding videos and captures some odd phenomena with his cameras. Beginning just as odd noises that appear to be emanating from Katie and Kristi’s bedroom, he captures dust falling on an invisible figure during an earthquake.
Dennis places cameras in his bedroom and in the room the two girls share and later a camera downstairs that oscillates back and forth between the kitchen and the living room. Dennis discovers that Kristi is talking to an imaginary friend called “Toby” who she describes as tall and old like Grandma Lois. Grandma Lois, it must be noted, does also not particularly approve of Dennis but urgew Julie to consider having another child in the hope of having a son. As Dennis becomes more preoccupied with the phenomena taking place in the house, Julie utterly dismisses everything as harmless noises and an imaginary friend.
“Toby” begins to make its presence more and more obvious as it has Kristi getting up at all hours of the night to play. Dennis finds a strange symbol in the girls’ shoe closet that resembles a triangle with a circle inside it. He finds that same symbol in a book on the occult where it is connected with a coven of witches known as The Midwives. They supposedly brainwash young people and take their first born sons for use in rituals. “Toby” starts to physically attack Katie, forcing Kristi to agree to do something for it in order to save her sister. Kristi begins asking if they can stay with Grandma. Lois and Julie continues to resist until she finally sees her kitchen destroyed in front of her. Unfortunately this is all according to a plan made between “Toby” and the Midwives, of which Grandma Lois is a member.
The night after arriving at Lois’ house things escalate quickly. The girls play dress-up with their grandmother, Kristi saying she is going to be married to “Toby”. During the night Dennis wakes to find himself alone and as he frantically searches for his family he makes terrible discoveries. He finds an inverted pentagram and the triangle/circle symbol painted on the walls of one room which were previously hidden by pictures hanging on the walls. In a house away from the main building he discovers a room full of older women. Running back into the house he has the apparent corpse of Julie hurled down the stairs at him, finally he is attacked by a possessed Katie and is killed by “Toby”. His camera catches Grandma Lois leading Katie and Kristi upstairs with “Toby”’s footsteps following. The girls are taken to a room where they are introduced to a man that is to become their “teacher” and that he will teach them how to work with “Toby” to bring other children into the fold for whatever dark purpose it is that they have planned.
March 2005: Carlsbad, California:
Kristi is now married to Daniel Rey and expecting a son and has a step-daughter named Ali. They are visited by Kristi’s sister Katie who is about to move in with her boyfriend Micha. She has a couple of boxes that she asks if Kristi can store in her basement. The boxes contain old VHS tapes which Katie says she ended up with after their grandmother died.
August 2005: Carlsbad, California:
Hunter is born. The first son.
August 2006: Carlsbad, California:
The Rey family celebrates Hunter turning a year old. The family returns one day to discover their home has been ransacked. The only room left untouched is Hunter’s nursery. The motives for the apparent break-in seem to be unclear. All that was taken was a necklace Kristi had received from Katie and the boxes of video tapes that Katie had left with them the year previous.
Daniel Rey decides to install security cameras all around the downstairs of their home, both inside and outside, and a camera watching over Hunter in his room. These cameras start to pick up phenomena such as random noises and inanimate objects moving by themselves. The family dog begins to start scratching at the door to the basement. Hunter starts waking up in the night, first he is crying but soon he seems to be happy to see something that the camera cannot detect. The family’s maid Martine becomes alarmed by a presence she feels one night while the family is out and tries to “cleanse” the house by burning sage. The family is disturbed by this behavior on returning home and Daniel quickly fires her. Kristi starts to see and hear things happening but Daniel doesn’t believe that there is anything strange going. Step-daughter Ali believes Kristi and is excited at the prospect of their being a ghost in their home, starting to do her own research.
Kristi tells Katie that she’s afraid something is happening in the house similar to what happened when they are kids. Facts remain vague but Katie wants Kristi to let that time in their lives go. Ali’s investigating leads her to writings about The Midwives and she also learns that Hunter is the first male born on Kristi’s side of the family since the 1930’s. “Toby” is clearly there to collect on the deal he made with Lois decades before. The demonic happenings become more and more physical and terrifying until it finally attacks the family dog and leaves her critically wounded. Daniel and Ali leave Kristi alone with Hunter in the middle of the night to take the dog to a vet. “Toby” had planned this distraction as he then invisibly grabs Kristi and drags her into the basement. An hour passes before she emerges but a change has clearly taken place. The next day Kristi is acting extremely strange and has a large bite mark on her leg. Finally convinced, Daniel calls Martine back to help him save his wife and son. There is a ritual that can move the attentions of a demon from one person to another but it must be a blood relative of which there is only one: Katie. After a struggle in the basement, Daniel is able to complete the ritual that removes the demon from Kristi. Daniel takes the picture of Katie that was taken on picture day when she was 8 years old and burns it, presumably completing the ritual. With Kristi and Hunter both safe, the family goes on with normal life with Kristi having no memory of what happened. Again.
September 2006. San Diego, California:
Katie lives with her boyfriend Micah but recently has been starting to feel a strange presence in their house. Katie tells Micah that this is a phenomenon she has experienced since she was 8 years old. Micah is skeptical but still buys a camera to try and record any phenomena that is happening. Every night he sets the camera up in their bedroom. At first there are just noises but later doors moving and lights turning on and off. Katie invites a psychic to visit and tells him about the presence that she’s experienced. She talks about she and her sister being terrorized by something they couldn’t explain and that when she was 13 a fire started in their house and destroyed everything they owned (except the VHS tapes assumedly). Unfortunately the psychic has bad news: this isn’t a haunting related to the house but is a demonic presence that is attached to Katie. If they move, it will follow them. He does not have the expertise to deal with this and he refers them to a demonologist. Micah pleads with Katie not to call the demonologist.
After that visit and Micah’s continued investigating events start to escalate. The door to the bedroom moves by itself and the noises get louder and more demonic in nature. As Katie succumbs to the demon’s actions it begins exerting control directly on Katie such as her getting up in the middle of the night seemingly in a trance and standing over Micah for hours. One night Micah lays down powder from the hallway to their bedroom and they discover footprints that begin from a closet and end next to Katie. They track the footprints to their closet and discover the entry to the attic space is open. Inside Micah finds a partially burned picture of Katie sitting in the insulation right above their bedroon. The fear this creates gives the entity the power that it needed as it is able to physically drag Katie out of her bed and down the hall. Micah is able to drag her back but the damage has been done, Katie has a large bite on her back. The next day Katie has become almost entirely unresponsive and after having wanted to leave the house the previous night she now wants to stay.
October 8th 2006, San Diego, California:
Katie gets up out of bed again in a trance-like state. She stands over Micah and watches him sleep for nearly two hours before slowly walking out of the room. Suddenly she starts to scream from downstairs and Micah runs to help but soon he is screaming also. Loud footsteps are heard coming up the stairs and Micah’s lifeless body is hurled at the camera, knocking it to the floor. Katie enters the room covered in blood and smiles into the camera before her face changes into that of a demon and the recording ends.
October 9th 2006 Carlsbad, California:
Katie appears in Daniel and Kristi Rey’s house still wearing the blood stained clothes of the night before. Katie snaps Daniel’s neck before proceeding upstairs to Hunter’s room where she kills Kristi. Katie picks up Hunter and leaves with him.
October 11th 2006, San Diego California
The body of Micah is found by police
October 12th 2006, Carlsbad, California:
Ali Rey returns home from a school trip and finds the bodies of her father and step-mother. The whereabouts of Katie and Hunter are unknown, Ali is the only other known survivor of the family.
November 2011, Henderson, Nevada:
Alex Nelson is a teenage girl lives with her mother and father Holly and Doug and her adopted little brother Wyatt. Alex and her friend Ben become very interested in their new neighbor across the street. A few days later that interest is piqued when the mother has some sort of medical emergency and has to be rushed to the hospital. She has to stay there for an extended period of time and has no other family so the Nelson family agree to take in her son Robbie. Robbie is roughly the same age as Wyatt but acts oddly. Nevertheless the two boys bond quickly and as they do so, the presence of “Toby” enters the home.
Events unfold like before though things escalate quickly as a chandelier falls, narrowly missing Alex as it comes crashing to the floor. Soon it is suggested that now Wyatt can see “Toby” and to make matters worse Robbie has taken to sleeping in Wyatt’s closet where he has painted the now synonymous circle within a triangle symbol on the wall. Alex starts to notice gatherings of people across the street and starts to become suspicious of Robbie’s behavior. One day she sees Robbie and Wyatt running across the street to the house and Alex goes running after them, only to encounter Robbie’s mom: it’s Katie. Alex also catches Robbie painting the triangle/circle on Wyatt’s back and telling him that his name isn’t Wyatt, it’s Hunter. Robbie has come to prepare Hunter now that he is 8 years old for the part he will play in the pact his great grandmother made with “Toby.” (look, I didn’t write this movie, okay?) The demon attempts but fails to kill Alex and then Ben is killed by Katie while leaving Alex a message on her computer. Doug and Alex go across the street to Katie’s house looking for Wyatt/Hunter, only for Doug to get dragged away. Alex is rushed by a demonic Katie but escapes out of the window only to be faced by hundreds of women and is finally caught by Katie. It is assumed the whole Nelson family has perished.
June 2012, Oxnard, California:
Jesse Arista has graduated high school. He lives with his grandmother Irma, sister Evette and his father Cesar. He plans to celebrate the summer with his friends Hector and Marisol and document it with his new camera. He notes that directly below his apartment lives Ana who has paper taped over her windows and is rumored to be some kind of witch. One night they witness Oscar escaping from their apartment complex and soon the police arrive. Ana has been killed and they suspect that Oscar might have had something to do with it. Once everything has died down Jesse decides they should investigate the crime scene so he and Hector break in. They find a notebook near what must have been near where the murder took place, they also find boxes of VHS tapes which again include the tapes of Katie and Kristie from 1988. They are interrupted by Arturo Lopez, Oscar’s big brother who is part of a local gang and quizzes the two about what happened. The next day Jesse wakes up having had weird dreams and he has been marked: there is a large bite on his arm.
Upon reading the book they find it is full of drawings, pages torn from old books, and a newspaper clipping about the disappearance of Katie and Hunter. One page details the making of a special door which can become a gateway to other places in time, but only to unholy places. Soon Jesse starts to the center of some unusual events. It is as if something is watching over and preventing any harm from being done to him. Things become even stranger when Jesse decides to take a girl to Ana’s place in order to indulge in some extracurricular activities. They discover that Oscar has been hiding in the apartment’s basement, the girl runs away in fear but Jesse tries to talk to him. Oscar looks sickly and his eyes are black, he tells Jesse they have both been marked and shows that they both have the same bite mark on their arms. Oscar tells Jesse he has to kill himself before he hurts someone before running out of the building. Jesse pursues him and witnesses Oscar plunge from the church across the street and land on a parked car. Investigating the basement there is a primitive altar and Most notable is a picture of Jesse’s mother while she was pregnant with him standing with Ana and Katie and Kristi’s Grandma Lois. Jesse reveals that his mother died giving birth to him and questions his father as to whether Ana could have had anything to do with it. Meanwhile Jesse is starting to look more gaunt and sickly.
The three friends go to see Arturo to ask him more about his brother Oscar. large collection of newspaper clippings, print-outs and notes about missing children and young people. Arturo says that Oscar ranted and raved to him about witches building some sort of demonic army and that there were many who had been marked like him. Hector grabs a note about Ali Rey in Carlsbad with her phone number. Jesse starts behaving erratically and violently, saying that he’s losing time and doesn’t know what is happening to him. Jesse returns to Ana’s basement thinking he hears his dog and is attacked by something in the darkness. The next day Jesse is acting very aloof and wants nothing to do with his friends. Desperate, they call Ali Rey who comes to meet them. Ali tells them about the triangle/circle symbol being the mark of The Midwives coven. She also tells them that the demon attaches itself to the marked children after they turn 18, that their bodies will try to fight the possession but it’s a fight they will lose.
After a failed attempt to cleanse Jesse by his superstitious grandmother Irma she is found at the bottom of the apartment building stairs in a pool of blood, Jesse looking on passively. After an encounter with a violent Jesse, Hector and Marisol see him being kidnapped. They follow to the house with an armed Arturo and, yes, it’s Grandma Lois’ house. Hector sees the people he’s with get killed and is then chased through the house by a demonic Jesse. He locks himself in a room but as Jesse comes crashing through the door Hector sees another door. It looks old and is surrounded by strange symbols. He goes through the door and finds himself in Katie and Micah’s house on October 8th 2006. Hector then witnesses Katie murdering Micah before Jesse catches him. Chalk up another for “Toby.”
Santa Rosa, California, November 2013:
Ryan Fleege, along with his wife Emily and 8 year old daughter Leila are decorating their new house for Christmas. Ryan’s brother Mike comes to stay with them after he breaks up with his girlfriend and another family friend Skylar is also staying with them. While decorating the house the brothers find an old box that contains VHS tapes from 1988 and 1992 and an odd-looking old video camera. The camera possesses an odd construction and the video it records looks unusual, seemingly picking up shapes that can’t be seen with the naked eye. Around the same time as the discovery of the camera little Leila begins to talk to an imaginary friend. Ryan continues to play around with the camera and then decides to check out the old tapes that were found with it. They find a tape of young Kristi being trained to perform some sort of clairvoyant ability with “Toby” and Kristi gives an accurate description of Leila’s bedroom. When pushed to answer whether “He” is in the room with her Kristi says that he is and her face contorts briefly before the recording stops. At the same time the power in the house briefly goes out.
Ryan becomes preoccupied with the tapes and the camera, starting to see and hear strange things. Leila also starts interacting more with whatever it is she’s seeing, including asking to play Bloody Mary much like Kristi and Katie did back in 1988. Ryan and Mike start to research the area and discover that their new house was built when the original one burned down. The family who lived there were never accounted for, including two daughters Katie and Kristi. Ryan’s wife Emily thinks he’s taking things way too seriously but he convinces her to let him set up some cameras around the house and in Leila’s bedroom. As they all sleep a fluid-like black mass appears above Leila, only being picked up by the special “spirit camera” as it forms into a vaguely human shape at the foot of the bed. We then hear half of a conversation as Leila talks to it. Being quizzed the next day Leila talks about “Toby” which makes Ryan go back to the old VHS tapes of Katie and Kristi where references are made to “Toby” and how important he is. Leila starts acting strangely, like trying to burn her mother’s rosary and bible in the fireplace. The VHS tapes continue to suggest Kristi is looking into the future and seeing “Toby” in the house.
Things escalate when the family bring a priest to the house who warns them that there might be a demonic presence following Leila. He goes to see her and attempts to anoint her with holy water but she then attacks him. Further exploration of the tapes shows a tape from a few days before this family moved in and it turns out that their realtor was named Katie and the realty company has no record of having an employee by that name working for them. “Toby” again becomes more emboldened, knocking over the camera in the hallway and telling Leila that he is going to take her away. The adults begin to get physically attacked and damage is done to the kitchen as “Toby” appears stalk Ryan and Chris. Further research digs up that Leila and Hunter Rey share the same birthday (no, really) and that his aunt Katie is wanted for the murder of several people and the kidnapping of Hunter. More disturbing is another old tape shows Hunter in 1992 with Katie and Kristi, years before he was born (I’m not making this up). The next night symbols appear above Leila’s bed and the wall cracks open, revealing a passageway and a voice calling out to her. Leila walks down the tunnel and disappears then suddenly comes back. The frantic parents pack up their things and take Leila out of the house, only for Leila to miraculously appear back in her bedroom. The priest returns and fails in an attempt to contain and banish “Toby”. “Toby” kills everybody except for Emily who escapes through the portal in Leila’s room. Emily finds herself in the house that had burned down in 1993, where Dennis and Julie lived with Katie and Kristi. Unfortunately she is too late as Leila says they only needed a little bit of her blood and “Toby” was “alive” now. The camera is dropped and we see a figure with grimy legs and feet approach Emily and kill her, before taking Leila by the hand and leading her away. THE END? THE BOX OFFICE SAYS YES,
Thoughts and loose ends:
- To give the Paranormal Activity series some credit, it actually made it through a couple of sequels before losing its way. Depending on opinion,The Marked Ones is considered pretty decent too and though it appears it started as a side-story it became pretty central to the Paranormal Activity mythology though maybe not for good reasons.
- Unfortunately The Ghost Dimension is more or less just a poor retelling of #3 only with the gimmick of the spirit camera if you were fortunate enough to watch it in amazing THREE DIMENSIONS.
- The problem with the Spirit Camera thing is that these movies have built their scares around the fact that you can’t see what is doing the titular paranormal activity. Adding this Spirit Camera is like showing the kids the puppeteers at work during the puppet show.
- How and why was Hunter put up for adoption? There’s plot ambiguity and then there’s just putting stuff in as a plot twist because you’ve completely failed to build any tension in your movie.
- Why did they suddenly need the blood of another kid to bring “Toby the Demon” to life? So they can make a quick buck on a lazy sequel? Okay, gotcha.
- So here’s something, “Toby the Demon” went from needing just Kristi and Hunter to then needing an army of demonic teenagers to also needing the blood of another little kid. Plus there’s literally hundreds of women who stare down Alex at the end of 4 so who the hell were they? These changes in stakes come off as half-baked and especially confusing unless you’re the kind of fool who just watched each movie two or three times and wrote thousands of words about it.
- It also ended with “Toby the Demon” becoming flesh on our plain of existence. Bit of a downer huh? Well think about this too, he was birthed into the world back in 1992. Wouldn’t the future be different?
- You’re just asking for huge loose ends when you add time travel to a mythology as shaky as this one. So if Toby now exists on Earth, presumably way more powerful than he was before, wouldn’t California be even hotter now? Time travel stories are really tricky, even Robert Zemeckis and James Cameron couldn’t avoid big gaps in the plot when you try to apply logic to time travel. Paranormal Activity definitely is not the best series to explore this and makes things incredibly confusing by the end.
- Why is Katie Featherston not in way more movies? She’s cute.
- If “Toby” became flesh in 1992 why did Julie and Dennis’ house burn down? How did Lois die? Was she in the fire?
- How do Kristi and Katie account for five years of their lives being completely blank? This probably could have been another movie if anybody ever planned these sequels out properly.
- Watch the damn tapes all the time! How much misery and death could have been spared if some of these dunces actually watched all of the footage they’re recording? Your child/girlfriend/whatever is being possessed by a demon and you get bored after a while?
- Story consistency is definitely a huge problem with the second half of this series but there is one enormous loose end that drives this scribe batty: Ali Rey.
- Seriously, what the hell happened to Ali Rey? She comes home in 2006 and finds her father and stepmother dead, her little brother missing and her aunt seemingly a murder/kidnapper. We see her once more when Hector and Marisol meet her and Ali delivers information about the Midwives coven with all of the interest of a phone book proofreader. Shouldn’t she, you know, care about what happened to her family? How was there not an entire movie about Ali looking for Katie and Hunter instead of the boring rehashes of 4 and Ghost Dimension? Ali’s character was ripe for involvement in a sequel, much like Nancy’s return in A Nightmare on Elm St. 3. As a fan of the series it is deeply frustrating seeing such an obvious sequel idea totally squandered.
So is there anything we missed? Anything you interpret differently? Would you actually pay to see another movie in this series? Is it a surprise that Ghost Dimension did by far the worst box office out of the whole series? Wouldn’t a sequel following Ali Rey have been awesome?! Tell us below!