Might Paranormal Activity replace Saw as Hollywood's premier horror franchise?
UK, October 28, 2009 - The king is dead, long live the king! With Lionsgate's Saw VI defeated by Paramount's Paranormal Activity at the U.S. box office this weekend, horror fans might want to celebrate the victory of the small independent against an established series. But as it turns out, it may well be that an old Halloween franchise has simply been dethroned by a new one.
Filmed in 2007, Oren Peli's Paranormal Activity was bought by Paramount, whose initial intention was to remake it. Two years passed without further news of a redux or release date.
Eventually, following positive test screenings, the studio decided to give Peli's $15,000 feature a small theatrical opening. Originally out on 12 screens, Paranormal Activity has progressively grown and has now beaten Halloween staple Saw VI at the box office, grossing $22m against a mere $14.8m.
To most observers, this is clearly a sign that U.S. audiences have voted with their feet and preferred to give their 10 bucks to an original product, rather than to the sixth instalment in a tired franchise.
Whatever you may think of the film - whether it scared you or not - Paranormal Activity was undeniably inventive and fresh. Indeed every aspiring filmmaker - and quite a few established ones - now wish they'd come up with the idea. You would think such success would send distributors a signal that viewers want to see original productions.
But now comes the news that a sequel is envisaged.
Ironically, the Saw series started out the same way. A clever, original, low-budget film created by two newcomers, James Wan and Leigh Whannell, and with no stars in its cast, Saw defied all expectations when it made a killing at the worldwide box office on Halloween 2004. Launching the torture porn sub-genre, it became a true phenomenon.
Quickly however, what had once been the underdog turned into a pure marketing product, following a tried and tested formula. Cleverly sold as a new Halloween tradition, the Saw series became the most reliable money-maker of the horror season. Whether the poor result of the sixth instalment will affect the planned production of further sequels is yet to be seen.
Will Paranormal Activity follow the same path and replace it as the new low-budget franchise to beat? Or will it go the way of another low-budget found-footage winner - 1999's Blair Witch Project - whose follow-up Book of Shadows crashed and burned the following year?
Most of all, is this what audiences truly want? On the one hand, fans did flock to every Saw sequel for four years, and even this fifth one is still profitable, given how low production costs were kept. On the other hand, wouldn't they show the same interest in good original features, were they given the same kind of clever marketing the Saw films benefited from?
In the end, the only thing that matters to investors is the money a product generates, and as long as we pay to watch endless sequels, all we deserve is to see more get made.
Wireless messaging lets you receive special text messages about Movie Miguel directly on your cell phone! We will let you know about The Movie Miguel Show, Dj Movie Miguel, TV appearances, events, special announcements, and other information that you just can't live without. You can unsubscribe at any time. To sign up, just enter your cellphone number and hit submit! Standard text message rates apply.