Paranormal Activity” ending that audiences saw when the film was first screened in October 2007 (to a horror movie festival known as Screamfest) is different than the one that was shown to general audiences in September of 2009. While it’s not uncommon for films to shoot multiple endings to throw off fans who are looking for spoilers, it’s very uncommon to dramatically change the ending after fans have seen it.
This unusual situation occurred at the request of Steven Spielberg, who had seen the early release and encouraged Paramount Pictures to distribute it. Spielberg thought the ending was too creepy and that it would prevent the general audiences it was intended for from seeing it. However, the original ending of "Paranormal Activity" made the two sequels that came from it possible. How were the two endings different?
The demon doesn’t let go. In the original “Paranormal Activity” ending, Katie (Katie Featherston) is possessed by the demon that has haunted her and Micah (Micah Sloat) for the length of the movie. She then goes downstairs and starts screaming in terror. This wakes Micah and he runs downstairs to his inevitable death at the hands of Demon Katie. Then there is silence followed by the sounds of someone booming up the stairs. Suddenly, the audience sees the lifeless body of Micah being hurled at the small camera that he left on in their bedroom. In the general release, after Micah is killed, Katie comes back upstairs and rocks back and forth for several hours until the police finally arrive and see what had happened downstairs.
There is only one physical death. The original “Paranormal Activity” ending shows Demon Katie in control all the way up through the ending. The general release shows how the police start investigating the house after finding Micah’s body. In this version, Katie snaps out of her trance as the police climb the stairs to their bedroom. She gets up, calling for Micah, with the knife she killed him with still in her hand. When the cops see her, she is told to drop it, however she is still in a daze and can’t hear them. They proceed to shoot her in self-defense and she falls to the floor and dies.
We see the demon. One of the biggest differences in the two “Paranormal Activity” endings is that in the original release, audiences finally see the demon that has possessed Katie in the final shot as she approaches the bedroom camera. It’s quite a shock to see her once beautiful face morphed into something sinister and grotesque. In the general release, Katie’s death is viewed from a distance and fans do not see much of her reactions.
The plot is left mysterious and open-ended. What might confuse fans most was how the plot was resolved in the two “Paranormal Activity” endings. In the version that most fans saw, both Katie and Micah were killed. While that is a definite ending, it left no room for a sequel. So writer/director Oren Peli decided to base the two sequels on the original ending in which Demon Katie wandered out of the house and into the night before the police arrive. In “Paranormal Activity 2”, audiences discover that Katie went to her sister’s house, killed both the sister and her husband, and took the couple’s baby before fleeing into the night.