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The Paranormal Activity Movies Ranked By Scares

The seventh installment of Blumhouse’s flagship franchise Paranormal Activity comes out tomorrow. The series, which began with Oren Peli’s in 2008, has made insane amounts of money and even more fans. While not all of the movies have been winners, there is still enough meat on the bone to warrant another addition. Arriving tomorrow on Paramount +, Paranormal Activity hopes to do what Halloween Kills did for its franchise. Love it or hate it, tons of people are watching, and it is currently raking in the dough. Paranormal Activity hopes their latest will do the same thing. They are banking on an influx of fans and a resurgence of the story fervor.

The newest film Paranormal Activity: Next of Kin, has one spooky kid, and the director William Eubank who gave us Underwater, seems to understand subtlety is the best approach. His light touch and commitment to showing less and making us feel more should right the PA ship. But, unfortunately, not every Paranormal Activity film understood this concept. Here are all the movies ranked by scare factor alone.

6. Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones

While the fifth film in the series is by no means the worst, it is the least scary. Some moments are downright funny. A Latino boy, Jesse, inadvertently gets tapped as a “Marked One” when he messes around with witchcraft after the death of his neighbor. Being marked comes with some privileges, and as he gets embued with powers from the Darkside, his family fights to save his life. Once again, that coven of witches gets more screentime.

We find out they are called the Midwives, and Kristi’s stepdaughter gives some much-needed exposition on the coven, the demon, and their purpose. The wild final act loops in the original by depositing Jesse in Micah and Katie’s home from the original. It isn’t a bad movie, and the unique setting and characters are engaging. The bizarre way everything ties together is fun as hell. If scares didn’t rank this list, but entertainment, Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones would be much higher on the list.

5. Paranormal Activity 4

The film, a direct sequel to Paranormal Activity 2 and a cousin of sorts to Paranormal Activity 3, features a new family(mostly) but the same coven from the previous movie. Alex and her family move into a new home. When her neighbor has to go to the hospital, her son Robbie is left with Alex. Tobi gets talked about, Katie shows up, and the witch coven makes another appearance.

It is a lackluster addition to the franchise that does nothing to further the story or deliver new scares. Everything is pretty phoned-in and perfunctory. If you like the found footage genre and the Paranormal Activity movies in general, it is still worth watching as you get precisely what you expect. In terms of fresh, quality scares, you need to look elsewhere for those. Probably the biggest sin this movie commits is making the found footage angle tired and gimmicky.

4. Paranormal Activity: Ghost Dimension

The sixth movie in the franchise gets a slight nod over PA4 only because it is at least unique. In this installment, a new family movies into a home and finds a mysterious camera that allows them to see ghosts. Similar to the game Fatal Frame, the camera allows the viewer a window into another realm. The family has a daughter Leila whose blood is needed to fulfill a prophecy. Per usual, Tobi shows up to whisper sweet nothings. Before the newest installment out tomorrow, this last in the franchise felt like the last gasps of a dying franchise. Worse yet, it was the most expensive by far and seemed to forget that what we imagined was always scarier than anything we might catch on camera. As a result, it’s only barely better than PA4 by a tiny bit, getting an A for effort for trying something different.

3. Paranormal Activity: 2

For some reason, PA2 wasn’t able to capture the same magic that the original did. There are more cameras, a bigger house, and bigger intended scares, but none of it adds up to the magic that the first and third one does. Paranormal Activity 2 focuses on Katie’s sister Kristi and her family. The slow burn of the first film is completely ditched in favor of a gorilla warfare-style sensibility that leaves the viewer more exhausted than scared. It’s by no means terrible, and some of the scares land, particularly the camera angles of baby Hunter being haunted. The only real complaint is PA2 seems to suffer from Sophmore Slump and, in its effort to up the ante, forgot a little the game it was playing.

2. Paranormal Activity 3

The third installment, set in 1988, is a prequel to the events seen in the first two Paranormal Activities. Katie and her sister Kristi are little girls living with their mother and her boyfriend when Katie begins talking about an imaginary friend Tobi. As we now know, Tobi is the human name the demon Asmodeus used to disguise his identity. Kristi and Katie’s mother Julie and her boyfriend Dennis find a symbol that leads them to discover an evil coven of witches who worship Asmodeus. The coven compels innocent young women into having male offspring, which the demon then uses. Making matters worse, when the family flees to Julie’s mother’s house, they discover she is a member of the coven. This film explains everything that happens in Paranormal Activity 1 and 2. The absolutely bonkers ending makes this a quality installment in the franchise.

1. Paranormal Activity

The Granddaddy of them all is still the scariest by a mile. Partly, it is because it was the first of its kind, and also because the simple premise and several creative scares get under your skin like nothing since. In the original film, we know nothing about covens or demon conspiracies, or even Tobi. All we know is one incredibly arrogant boyfriend and his girlfriend, Katie, gets in way over their head. Then, as they slowly lose control, the scares become louder and more jarring.

We are at our most vulnerable when we are asleep, and PA understands this universal fear. I couldn’t sleep soundly for weeks after seeing this film for the first time, and to this day, along with the final scene in Blair Witch and Samara dragging herself out of the television in Ring, I point to this film as the most impactful scary film I have ever seen.