Whether you love it or hate it, the original Paranormal Activity is arguably one of the most influential horror movies of the past decade, inspiring countless imitators to create low-budget "found footage" films with varying degrees of success. The film's director, Oren Peli, recently revealed on the Post Mortem podcast that, despite the film's success, he wishes he ignored Steven Spielberg's advice and kept the original film's ending.
WARNING: Spoilers for the ending of Paranormal Activity below.
In the film, a couple is tormented by unseen spirits, starting with creaky doors moving on their own and the sounds of footsteps, leading to Katie (Katie Featherstone) being dragged down a hallway. In the film's climax, Katie attacks her boyfriend off screen, and the film's final shots are of a seemingly possessed Katie lunging at the camera.
The film's original ending had Katie returning to the couple's bedroom after killing her boyfriend, with the audience seeing Katie sit virtually motionless on the floor for days, leading to the police arriving and killing Katie when she lunges at them with the knife she used on her boyfriend.
“The original ending, which if anyone’s seen it, that is the one where the cops enter and end up shooting Katie, that wasn’t a huge hit with the audience,” Peli admitted. “Some people loved it, but they wanted to find something a little bit more — that will be more universally loved."
One of the advantages of the original ending is that, without watching the footage, the whole event could be ignored under the guise of it being a domestic dispute that turned deadly. The updated ending, of course, allowed for future installments in the saga involving Katie.
"We tried a few different ideas…the idea that is in the final cut…I thought it was effective but I wasn’t a huge fan of it, initially," Peli pointed out. "But it played so well against audiences that I know…that’s going to be the new ending. It’s not the greatest feeling, and I tried to fight for my ending, but at the end of the day, the movie did work as a whole with the new ending. I’ve learned to embrace and love the new ending.
The advice to change the ending came from Spielberg, resulting in Peli being given $4,000 to shoot the new ending. The film's overall budget was still under $20,000, eventually going on to earn $107 million domestically.
(h/t Entertainment Weekly)