'Paranormal Activity' to ruin your sleep for a fourth time, but where can -- or should -- the franchise go next?

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As far as horror franchises go, Paranormal Activity might just have the strongest legs to keep going and going and going and going. (Of course, if we’re talking numbers here, The Human Centipede actually has the most legs. Yuck. Sorry. But, if it makes you feel any better, I just lost my lunch at the thought of it, too.)

Between the spooky, getting-better-as-it-goes saga of the possessed Katie and her mounting list of victims and the filmmakers increasingly clever ways to scare the bejeezus out of moviegoers by doing so much with so little (stacks of papers aren’t the only things freaked out by oscillating fans anymore), Paranormal Activity has quickly done what not even the game-changing Blair Witch Project could scare up: The franchise has kept audiences coming back for more, thanks to some clever marketing and worthy follow-ups. (In its opening weekend, Paranormal Activity 3 earned a wildly impressive $53 million, over PA 2‘s $40 million start.)

So it was of no real surprise that Paramount confirmed Paranormal Activity 4 will be on its way this year. That’s right, it’s time to fire up those nightlights again, as the smile-you’re-on-terrifying-candid-camera series gets another chapter. But where can — or should — the story go next [Caution: Spoilers ahead if you aren't caught on the Paranormal Activity movies], now that we’ve traced the origins of how Katie and Kristi got attached to the demonic entity that wreaked havoc on their lives? (i=Instead of getting $5 for their birthdays, their witch coven-attending grandmother gave the even less desired gift of eternal hauntings.) My guess is that in PA 4, we’ll move into present-day and discover the whereabouts of a possibly still-possessed Katie and poor baby Hunter, who seemed to have the evil family gene passed on to him by the end of PA 2.

Of course, if that is the case, can the series survive a fifth, sixth, or seventh installment? Or should the filmmakers try and tie things up once and for all with PA 4? Even if the fourth movie does bring in big bucks (a likely scenario), it might be best bury the franchise after this one. Take for instance, the Scream saga, which waited far too long between films to keep interest in the franchise alive and underperformed at the box office. But then again, unlike the otherwise-genius Scream flicks, PA didn’t have a terrible, frustrating third chapter to kill the momentum. Still, releasing horror films close together (the first PA hit theaters in the summer of 2009) doesn’t always guarantee huge success or staying power either. Look no further than the Saw series, which has seen a rather steady decline in box office returns. (2005’s Saw 2 earned a franchise-high $87 million total, while Saw VI¬† brought in a measly $27 million just four years later.)

Yes, the filmmakers and the studio could keep passing on and on the evil spirit that’s plagued Katie and ruined moviegoers’ restful nights’ sleep for years, but wouldn’t it be scary good if they broke all the horror rules once again and let it die when it’s ready to go? (Okay, fine, PopWatchers, my heart just can’t handle a fifth one, is that so wrong?!)

What do you think Paranormal Activity 4 will — or should — be about? Do you agree with my theory that it will uncover what happened to Katie and Hunter after her two-day haunted killing spree in October 2007? Do you also hope that the fourth one will mark the last of the saga, or is it one of the rare horror franchises that you can actually envision going on for quite some time? Share in the comments section below, PopWatchers.

Read more:
Paranormal Activity 4′ set for 2012
10 Best Movie Prequels Ever
‘Creepy Woman’ Maria Olsen talks scaring audiences in ‘Paranormal Activity 3′

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