Described by many as one of the scariest films of all time, Paranormal Activity made horror scary again, and now producers are shelling out another installment, giving audiences a fourth round of chills. Just in time for Halloween, Paranormal Activity 4 will hit theaters this Friday, October 19, and if the success of the first three films is any indication of how well this one will do – fans are probably in for a trick or treat.

Most of us are probably in agreement that the first film in the franchise was brilliantly frightening. In fact, if we were to check the box office receipts, evidence would show that the film grossed over 1000 times its budget.   Obviously being successful with audiences, the film was a sleeper hit that seemed to come out of nowhere.  But how and why?

Two words: Reality Shows.

In a time where reality shows have taken over planet Earth, it wasn’t out of the ordinary to go see a horror film that was “reality-based”. Let’s face it: the idea of making a realistic ghost story take place in your neighbor’s house was, in fact, a perfect idea. Perfect because it people who went and saw the first Paranormal Activity practically wet themselves. News about the film spread like wildfire, and all types of audiences were getting the chills just from watching the trailers. Yet still, could this be the only reason why?

Most reasons why a film will does well is broken down into three simple rules:  great writing, great directing, and maybe most importantly – great marketing. Paranormal Activity brilliantly excelled in all of these. The film’s plot about a young couple being haunted in a quiet suburban home in Anywhere U.S.A. hit home with everyone. Who hasn’t had a moment while sitting home alone in their PJs and hearing eerie noise echoes from the bowels of…maybe the basement? It happens to me all of the time, and while I am also sitting here all alone in my house thinking about it, it will probably happen to me tonight.

When I was a kid, my siblings and I would test each other’s strength of heart by hiding in our dark hallways waiting to jump out and scare the others. It’s that creepy feeling of being followed or watched when you’re not really certain, or when someone is reading over your shoulder just before you notice them doing it. Either way, it’s the Unknown that can stain your skivvies, and this is exactly what the Paranormal crew plays on.  The brilliant part is that they didn’t have to spend a ton of money doing it; they just used simple old-school film magic to bring home the thrills. A few floor thumps, some wall scratches, and some decent unknown actors to carry the film’s momentum is apparently all that is sometimes needed to make a quick hundred million bucks.

Another thing producers plotted (which reminded us a lot of what The Blair Witch Project did back in the day) was the marketing plan. What’s scarier than a scary movie?  A scary movie that is “based on true events.” The producers slowly stoked the fire of the first film by making it seem like it was a true story. They had websites and blogs going off all over the net hinting that there might be some truth to all of this. Horror fans went nuts, and the film took off.

Producers apparently made some predictions with the first film and took the chance of leaving the ending open in case there was a need for a sequel. Well, they were right, and bouncing off the huge success from the first film, a second was greenlit. This time, they brought the activity to Katie’s sister and her family, uncovering more reasons behind the strange events. Paranormal 2 provided fans with plenty more of the same spine-tingling thrills from the first film along with some deeper demon insight. Not to mention some hair-whitening moments of demon possession combined with combos of poltergeist-type action scenes.

The second film did equally well as the first and cleverly left fans hanging on to the guarantee that they were going to be coming back for a third one. Especially after learning more and more of the secret behind all of this “paranormal activity” surrounding Katie’s family history, there is always more to be told and more money to be made by the studio. It was a perfect follow-up to the original and cemented the term “paranormal activity” as a common household occurrence.

The third film really gets down to the nitty gritty and takes the fans straight to demon heaven, summing up all the “paranormal activity” into basically an old family séance that created a curse which caused the first demon in the first film. Let’s also not forget in the meantime that Paranormal 3 brought out some pretty freaky moments with the grandmother and her disciples. Very reminiscent of 1963’s Rosemary’s Baby.

All in all, if you haven’t seen any of the first three Paranormal films, or Rosemary’s Baby for that matter, I would suggest seeing at least the first three before visiting the fourth one. Only see the latter if you think you might enjoy watching Woody Allen’s ex-wife have sex with the Devil and give birth to a demon baby. Not to steer off course with the point here… but with all the trailers showing the reactions of actual live theater audiences experiencing the current Paranormal 4 film, this may be hard NOT to go see. Therefore, even so, it probably won’t disappoint, because in the end, it’s all about the rollercoaster ride I’m certain Paranormal 4 will provide.

The question is: Will producers end the ride with this latest installment, or leave it open-ended as well? I have not read any reviews of it, nor do I know what it’s even about. What I do know is that Katie and some of her other family members are out walking around —  still possessed – leaving some poor innocent souls open to some guaranteed activity.   Therefore, as long as it keeps scaring fans, they producers will probably keep tricking us into buying tickets no matter how many sequels they make.

Either way, trick or treat – my guess is you will be on your way to the theaters to see Paranormal 4 real soon.