The endings of Paranormal Activity
Rumours are filtering through that one of the scariest movies ever made will finally get a US release date almost three years after it finished production. The facts are still elusive but signs point to September 25 as the date for a limited release in the States. But as audiences begin to gear up for one of the most traumatic experiences to be had in the cinema, controversy will surely turn to which ENDING they will be getting.
The word is director Oren Peli has been tinkering with his cut of the film over the last year and may even have ditched the film's original ending for a an alternative ending. As this site reported, an alternate ending was screened with the film at various festivals over the last 12 months, including the Sydney Film Festival. Unfortunately, as I wrote in my review, the ending was the one time I felt the film went Hollywood and utilised more conventional shock tactics and even added an annoying, self-referential touch. So it made sense when I found out the ending was actually an alternate ending and there was an original ending said to be much longer and much more horrific.
Two months ago I thought I had found it. *SPOILER* A description from someone who had seen a screener of the film described a longer ending in which Kate kills Micah offscreen and then walks into the bedroom with a bloody knife. She then sits and rocks beside the bed for days (long enough that we hear the phone ringing and worried messages left in the background). Katie's female friend then comes to the house worried and Katie goes downstairs where you hear the friend scream. Katie comes back to the bedroom and continues rocking beside the bed as the counter records more days going past. Finally police arrive and as she approaches them with the knife they open fire on her and we fade out to the sound of police radios. It sounded much more unsettling than the ending I had seen and seemed to make better use of the dread that rendered the rest of the film so traumatic. The only thing that seemed off was the use of police - it seemed a little anti-climatic and risked providing too much closure.*SPOILER*
But I've recently learnt that ending was not the original at all. It was in fact one of THREE different endings. So which one was the original? From what I've heard I believe the description below to be that of the original ending, or at least the earliest one screened. Unlike the previous two, I regard this ending to be the perfect finish to one of the most original horror films I've ever seen. When I first heard the description, I gasped. I can't imagine how it's going to feel on screen.
I recommend you go into Paranormal Activity cold but if you've already seen the film and are curious about the original ending here is a description below:
This ending initially repeats what we see in the other two endings. We watch through the camera as the couple sleep. Then suddenly Kate sits straight up, gets out of bed, walks over to Micah and stands over him staring at him for a few hours. Then she walks out of the bedroom and we hear her going downstairs. After a few minutes tick off the clock, we hear Kate screaming. Micah wakes up, screams to Kate that he is coming to help her, and he darts out of the room. For the next few minutes you just see an empty bedroom with the ticking clock and you hear both Kate and Micah screaming and a lot of commotion like they are fighting. After a few minutes, the screaming stops and it is silent. After a minute or two of silence, you hear a loud stomping sound (like something very heavy is coming up the stairs).
From here, the ending diverges: Kate walks into the bedroom covered in blood and holding a large butcher knife down at her side. She walks into the room very heavy and stiff-like. She walks right up to the camera so that the upper half of her body is in the shot (but she isn't staring into the camera or looking at you, she's sort of looking downward), and then she simply pulls up the knife and slashes her throat in one quick, graceful movement, and falls down on the ground. The camera keeps rolling so we just see an empty bedroom for a few seconds and then the camera shuts off and the movie ends.
I love this ending. It's actually much more in line with how I hoped the film would finish. Not only is there no ironic self-referencing (Kate thankfully doesn't look at the camera) but it is a moment of sudden and horrific violence that would likely mark the most traumatic point of the movie.
If the dread of Paranormal Activity is the traumatic, sustained experience of pure desire (desire being an experience of lack, of absence), this ending is traumatic precisely because it realises that desire. Violence is withheld and withheld in this film, fueling our anticipation for it, an anticipation that becomes unbearable. We know something horrific is about to happen but the more the film shies away from it the worst our expectations become. This ending finally gives us all the violence we feared. More than that, it directly posits the violence as something we desire by offering it up in front of the camera.
What may have started off as a neutral viewing position through the camera has gradually become the eyes of the demon itself. It is less Kate who is possessed in this film than us. The demon is seeing through our eyes. What is shown to the camera is not just guided by the desire of the demon it is also guided by our own desire when we walked into this film - a desire for horror. This other worldly nature of our desire, this implication of our neutral gaze, is traumatic, and it's the original ending that so perfectly realises the nature of this gaze.
Why Dreamworks decided to change the ending is beyond me. Perhaps it was too gruesome for the rating they were trying to secure. Perhaps some timid audiences found it too confronting. Ultimately though it's an insane move. The fact is the film is not complete without its original ending. To give audiences one of the alternate endings would go against everything that is so unique about the film - its avoidance of the usual Hollywood scare tactics, its anticipation of a final moment of raw, unapologetic violence, indeed the very viewing position we have occupied for the last 90 minutes.
But there are signs of hope. At least according to the film's official website, which quotes my review, the filmmakers have read my criticism of the first alternate ending. Hopefully they'll be paying attention here as well. Let's not forget that at one stage we were actually going to get a Hollywood remake instead of the original. Perhaps these alternate endings will go the same route.
According to an interview with Peli, the original ending was the police ending. The suicide ending on the other hand was a rare alternate ending screened publicly only once. Peli goes on to say that there were many more alternative endings but they never got screened. However, we may see all of these endings on some kind of special edition DVD in the future.
Watch the original police ending here!
Labels: paranormal activity