Banking on the added "realism" of using a home video camera, "Paranormal Activity" plays out on the screen in a fashion very similar to films such as "The Blair Witch Project" and "Cloverfield." Much like these two films, the success of this movie relies heavily on the execution of this gimmicky style of filming.
The film opens with Katie (Katie Featherston) and Micah (Micah Sloat) fairly settled into their new home. Micah has purchased a camera in order to capture "paranormal" events that Katie believes are happening in the house. She also believes that the "activity" has actually been following her around since she was around eight years old. After a few scenes of the couple adjusting to life with the camera, we make it to the first night of Micah's experiment with the camera. With just a few breaks in between, this is how the majority of the rest of the film plays out.
At first, nothing major happens. The couple catches a door swaying open and shut and catch noises hear and there. After discussing the events with a psychic (Mark Fredrichs), the couple begin to part ways on Micah's experiments. The psychic warns the couple that whatever being is in the home with them is quite possibly demonic and that they shouldn't taunt, confront, or open dialogue with the entity. This only fuels Micah's desire to "catch" a ghost on camera or make contact with it. Katie demands that he stop doing this, but Micah insists on continuing his tests.
As Micah treads on despite Katie's protests, the events becoming more sinister and scary for the couple. They call a recommended demonologist to help them, but he is out of town for a few days. Instead, the psychic returns and immediately flees the home fearing that his presence might actually increase the activities going on in the home. Who or what is the entity? What does it want with Katie? You'll have to check out "Paranormal Activity" to find out.
Before I go any further, I want to say that I enjoyed "Paranormal Activity." It is a much smarter film than "Blair Witch" and I actually felt sorry for Katie as the events became creepier and more violent. Micah came off as quite the jerk in the film and had I been Katie I would have shown him the door long before the paranormal activity got bad. While Micah was a bonehead, he wasn't the type you'd typically find in most horror films. He wanted to tackle the entity because his ego wouldn't allow him to fail. Unfortunately, this caused a strain on his relationship with Katie and quite possibly fueled the entity's desire to terrorize them even more.
While the characters were decent enough (and not too over-the-top), the film did have a few major lulls in it. Shows like "Ghosthunters" and "Ghosthunters International" leave out the dull hours of footage where nothing happens for a reason: it's boring. In this film, perhaps to capture some of the "reality" of an actual investigation, we often get to see long segments of time where literally nothing happens.
As for the investigation techniques, I did appreciate the fact that Peli allowed his characters to utilize cameras, digital voice recorders, and the assistance of a psychic for Micah's tests. The use of powder to capture foot and/or handprints has also been used in paranormal research and allows for added creepiness in this film. Peli also stayed par for the course on what supposedly occurs during a demonic haunting event by utilizing the attic of the house, the number of knocks heard during the night, and the disoriented state of Katie at times. Kudos to Peli for researching the research.
***SPOILER ALERT*** With this praise given, I do have to knock Peli on two things. First, while many paranormal investigators agree on the dangers of using a Ouija board, I felt that the "fire" event involving the board took away from the overall authenticity of the film. Secondly, CGI works good in many films, but killed the ending of this movie for me. I preferred the alternate ending on the disc. ***END SPOILERS***
In summary, I applaud this film for attempting to give a very real and authentic look at paranormal research, albeit with just a couple of misteps that took away from the overall quality of the film. However, much like watching a person tackle a virus on a computer, paranormal research can be very, very boring at times. This makes "Paranormal Activity" suffer overall, and therefore I give it three stars.
*** out of **** "Paranormal Activity" is a rare case. It's the kind of horror movie in which those behind it would like nothing more to indulge and please devote fans of the horror genre; but nevertheless, the response from such a community is sharply divided. From personal experience; reactions seem to range from "loved it" to "hated it". This is unfortunate, because the movie tries hard and emerges rather successful; it would just appear that somewhat misleading marketing … more
Constantine, Queen of the damned, Drag me to hell, Underworld, House on haunted hill, The Amityville horror, An American Haunting, The haunting in Connecticut, The ring, The grudge, The Omen, The Hills have eyes, 1408, Ghost Ship, Jeepers Creepers, Halloween, Darkness Falls, Silent hill, etc I could go on and on and on. None of the movies I’ve named or could name even come close to Paranormal Activity. If you’ve read my Drag me to hell review then you … more
Remember a few years ago when “The Blair Witch Project” overcame genre expectations and became a blockbuster cult hit? That film had several other films that were inspired by its “Mockumentary” style gimmick; “Cloverfield”, “[REC]” and “Quarantine” to name a few. Well, writer/director Oren Peli’s “PARANORMAL ACTIVITY” is another film that follows in the footsteps of those films. It premiered in the 2007 Screamfest … more
**Cracking knuckles** The scariest, most terrifying experience you could possibly have in the theaters?? Hmm, I digress. I seem to remember writing a review for Cloverfield back in 2008. Oh wait, I also wrote a column for that Blair Witch Project travesty also in 1999. Needless to say this handheld camera film gimmick doesn't seem to be getting any better nor do I appreciate them anymore after 10 & a half years. I am steering clear from anymore of these … more
The sheer fact that this film was produced for around 10,000 USD is something to be praised. Although the actors' skills weren't top notch, there was definitely a notable "horror film" feeling broadcast to moviegoers through watching Paranormal Activity. While watching the movie, all of the points that make a good horror film are present – you know, the “what the hell are you doing, no! Call the demonologist!” and “ are you crazy?!! get out … more
Before I start the review, I'd just like to mention that I'm an avid horror movie fan. In the ocean of horrible horror movies, it's a challenge to find those few hidden treasures laying under the sand. This movie fares pretty well, but it's not because it is "really scary". Personally, I didn't think this movie was all that scary. But gauging the crazy reactions from others in the movie theater... some people were really genuinely scared out of their minds. … more
Despite looking extremely cool, I have to admit that I'm a dork. I grew up on the outskirts of the small town of Oberlin, LA. I have since relocated to the Lake Charles, LA area.I love my home state … more
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Paranormal Activity is a 2009 mockumentary horror film written and directed by Oren Peli. The movie premiered at the Screamfest Film Festival in US on October 14, 2007, and at the Slamdance Film Festival on January 18, 2008. The movie is currently in limited release in several cities in the United States as of October of 2009. The movie centers on a young couple, Katie and Micah, who are haunted by a supernatural presence in their home. The movie is presented through the camera set up by the couple to capture the paranormal activity.
Like The Blair Witch Project, Paranormal Activity is an impressive and harrowing indie chiller that derives much of its terror--and there is quite a bit of that in its brief running time--by playing on the most basic of human fears: that which cannot be seen. Though one might assume that the point-of-view aesthetic had been worn out thanks toCloverfieldandQuarantine(and, lest one forgets,Blair Witch),Paranormalmakes excellent use of the single-camera technique, which helps to not only preserve the film's central conceit--a new-minted couple records the increasingly threatening supernatural phenomena that have invaded their home on a camcorder--but underscore the realism needed to drive home the low-fi (if completely persuasive) special effects. The approach is also crucial to the film's suspense, which unfolds in long, largely broken takes to nerve-rattling effect. Not every horror fan--or moviegoer--will fall for the ...