Paranormal Activity Review

Published 4 years ago by , Updated October 22nd, 2010 at 1:33 am,

paranormal activity review Paranormal Activity Review
Screen Rant’s Kofi Outlaw Reviews Paranormal Activity

[Check out our Paranormal Activity 2 review]

Paranormal Activity is a little film that was reportedly made for $11,000 over the course of a seven-day shoot by writer/director/producer/editor Oren Peli, and stars newbies Katie Featherston, Micah Sloat and the couple’s camcorder.

The ghost story is pretty straightforward: Katie and Micah (the actors use their real names in the film) are a young couple who have been together for about a year or two and have recently taken the plunge of moving in together. Soon after, they begin to experience weird paranormal activity taking place in their home – lights and sinks turning on and off, doors slamming, etc. Katie soon reveals that this isn’t the first time she’s been “haunted by ghosts” – when she was 8, she had re-occurring visits from a shadowy apparition and her family’s home was eventually burned to the ground without explanation. Since then, the apparition has followed Katie wherever she goes, “visiting” her from time to time, up to the present. Micah wishes that Katie had told him all this BEFORE they moved in together.

Katie is freaking out about the reappearance of her ghostly stalker, but Micah (of course) is too MANLY to believe in such nonsense, so he invests in a top-grade camera, some top-grade mini microphones and sound recording software, in order to wire the house for a ghost-hunting experiment. Our POV is that of the camcorder and boom mic, as they record the paranormal happenings taking place in Katie and Micha’s home over the course of about three weeks.

That’s the setup, and it would be hard to go much deeper without dropping some major SPOILERS.

I can tell you that Katie and Micah bring in a psychic (Michael Bayouth) who determines that what they’re facing isn’t a ghost trying to establish communication, but rather a malevolent demon, hell bent (pun intended) on claiming Katie’s soul. The psychic tells Katie and Micah that they need to bring in a “demonologist” to help exorcise the evil spirit – only the guy is currently vacation, so they’ll have to wait it out. In the meantime, the psychic breaks down a few demon rules for the couple (and us) to understand:

  1. There is no running from it – leave the house and the spirit will only follow.
  2. The spirit feeds off negative energy (anger, fear, etc).
  3. Don’t do ANYTHING to enrage or attract the demon – especially buying a Ouija Board.

Of course, if you’ve ever seen a horror movie before you know that the rules are only there to be broken by doomed fools. Katie is all nervousness and pragmatism (“Honey, let’s just stop and ask for directions…”), but Micah, the skeptic, would rather “man-up” and handle things his own way (read: pacing the house, challenging the evil spirit to show itself). Smart idea.

paranormal activity poster Paranormal Activity Review

The best horror movies are the ones that exploit our deep-seated anxieties about real-life events or situations. The Exorcist was every parent’s worst nightmare: their innocent child suffering a terrible affliction; Rosemary’s Baby played upon the high-anxiety of pregnancy and child-rearing; Hitchcock’s Psycho gleefully exploited the near-universal fear of random, unprovoked violence. Paranormal Activity will stand out for a long time in my mind (and I’m sure others) because it hits just the right panic buttons inside the brain: the familiar fear of the creaky, empty house at night – but more importantly, the high-anxiety of being in a relationship.

The latter theme is only subtly touched on, due to the nature of the POV (it would’ve stupid to have the couple record their dramatic fight moments), but that current is always on and running, coursing through the cinematic subtext. Anybody you partner with in life is bound to come with baggage – Katie’s baggage just so happens to be a freaky demon. Micah is portrayed as something of an alpha-male stereotype – brash and insensitive a lot of the time, you know the picture – but also as a guy who is genuinely trying to help his chick sort out all of the crazy in her past, so they can be happy together in the present. And, like real-life relationships, sometimes the best intentions…

Continue reading our Paranormal Activity Review

Our Rating:

4 out of 5
(Excellent)

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TAGS: Paranormal Activity

625 Comments

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  1. I’m really looking forward to this one. Fortunately it’s playing in a market where I live at.

    More studios should follow the lead with this movie and NOT DO remakes. Give these indie or foreign flicks a chance first!

  2. cool… I’ll do my best to check it out.

  3. Paranormal Activity is a horror movie alright, it’s in the horrible movie bin. Don’t waste your time. Saw it! Scared? Nope! They got the wrong emotion from me. Pissed off!

    F for grade is being generous!

  4. wow, movie guy thats really disappointing. i want to see this so bad but it isn’t showing anywhere near me (well, at least not yet).

  5. By luck, I not only discovered this film on opening night, but also discovered that one of the thirteen cities it’s currently playing at is one that I live in. So I took it as a sign and checked it out.

    I thought it was scary, but not as much as the hype would have you believe. My wife, on the other hand…absolutely terrified. If you’re into Hollywood movies, you’ll be blown away by this. Definitely one that all fans of the genre should check out!

  6. i saw it the first night here in Baton Rouge, LA. It is a good movie. It is not, however, the scariest movie of all time. It was VERY slow at first. However, as it came to its final conclusion the pace ramped up so much that you were hoping for a bit of relief, so maybe the pace was an intentional choice. I am 38 yrs old and was not as affected as my 17 yr old daughter who sat with friends a few rows in front of me. She was freaked out and so were her friends. So, it does make me wonder if age may play a part in the reaction to the movie. Since, so many movies are over the top these days, maybe something shot in such a subtle way has a larger affect on those not used to such things. Anyway, good date film. i highly recommend it.

  7. I saw the screening trailer and it got my attention. I have always considered the Exorcist as the epitome of a great horror pic and still do having seen it when it was first released when I was in the 9th grade. I don’t believe in ghost but I do believe in demonic spirits. I don’t scare easily but the trailer did give me the willy’s, so we shall see.

  8. Strange that this movie should be given four stars, yet they admit that the couple is a “stereotypical” couple with likewise attitudes, and that the movie’s plot itself is stereotypical. Exactly, then, how am I supposed to be “wowed” by it, considering the SFX budget is basically nil?

    Need more convincing before I get conned into paying to see this. PASS

  9. @ darwin

    Ummm No, there is no mention of Katie being “stereotypical” and I say that Micah comes off as a meathead at times but is genuinely a guy trying to help his girlfriend.

    More to the point: Horror movies take the familiar and pervert it to make you feel scared and uncomfortable. That’s the point of horror films. So they’re usually grounded in a lot of familiar situations and/or emotions — so I don’t get your point.

    And you’re getting “conned” b/c of a low F/X Budget???? SO is Transformers 2 like the deal of the century to you????

  10. LOL @ Kofi…
    He got you there, Darwin, lol.

  11. I dont care what anyone says good or not. This is one of the best Horror movies that came out in years!

    It is a must-see movie!!

    I was scared out my seat!!. (mah boh)

  12. holy cow! this was awesome. i can honestly say this is the movie ive been searching for my whole life. ive been lookng for a movie to scare me and this one finally did it! first time ive jumped out of my seat! awesome. me and the people i went with were too scared to talk about the movie for an hour after we got out, and we still didn’t want to go to sleep! well worth the money

  13. Saw it last night. The trailers reviews were what caught my attention. Wow were they wrong may maybe for a younger crowd but for me it did not fullfill me. It was slow, way too much dialouge the scares were made too scare teenagers. I needed more creepiness and the feeling to go home and worry about nightmares and this movie did not deliver that. In other words it SUCKED!!!!!

  14. Very good review.
    I’m not a horror film fan at all, but mostly because horror these days is nothing but slasher pics, torture porn, and tons of blood and gore. That’s not scary. It’s disgusting.
    This interests me because it sounds like it’s more of a psychological scare that is true horror.
    I’d be interested to hear what the commentators who didn’t like this film believe to be scary?
    I won’t go see this in the theater, but will certainly give it a try on DVD.

  15. @ raulgnz & libbybstrd

    I’d be interested to know if the people who hated it are in relationships or not. I think that is an important (and overlooked) component to this.

  16. So, let me get this straight:
    the movie is shot either from a single stationary camera (in the bedroom, I presume from the clips), or in full-on epileptic hand-held mode for the other scenes?

    So, in other words, what people are liking about this movie, or finding scary, is that you never see what is in fact trying to scare you à la Blair Witch Project?

    Guys, sorry to disappoint you, but that doesn’t make this a “good movie”. It makes it – at most – a good concept for a scary entertainment. A good movie requires thought out camera angles, thought-out camera movement, well-planned sequencing of events – both visual and textual, and an intelligently written dialogue/plot.

    If this is coming across as “some dude shot this with his handycam in his own home”, then I’m sorry to inform you that THAT is not, by definition, “good movie making”.

    I could go on and on explaining exactly what is wrong with this whole concept, but I fear it would be lost on most of those who love this sort of “entertainment”.

    “Good cinema” it isn’t.

  17. This movie was the scariest I have EVER seen! I REGRET seeing it, because now I CANNOT sleep. I don’t know if it was the shaky footage but I felt queasy throughout the movie, and I had a horrible feeling of dread as the movie progressed. I left the theater shaking and feeling very anxious and nervous with my teeth chattering. Adrenaline was rushing through my body afterwards. My husband said it gave him the chills, and nothing scares him. I honestly wish I could go back in time and not see it…I will never sleep the same again!

  18. it totally cracks me up how some of the people commenting talk like they’re big shots in hollywood. “ugh, low budget POV movies are so beneath me…”
    Really? get a life dude…you’re not cool because you think you could do better. and if you’re so smart, make a better movie! until then, quit your bitching.
    I’m going to see this tomorrow night and i’m sure its going to be pretty sweet.

  19. I am really excieted to see this, by this point. I am in fact in a relationship, very long term, and I adore horror movies. Nothing has actually scared me in a very long time though, so I guess we’ll see how it goes.

  20. well the movie has yet to come out in any theaters near me so i havent senn it yet but looking forward to it! with all the hype i hope its as scary as people say, and yet i hope i can sleep if it is. i already have enough nightmares as is lol. im pumped up! cant wait!

  21. Yo Mike E., I see where you’re coming from from a professional standpoint but hey bro, you ever heard of ART? Raw art in this sense doesn’t care about camera angles. Looking forward to seeing this movie.

  22. I pray that all of you who watched this moive gets delivered. This is a message from the devil. There is no good in this at all. Try God. This movie is doing exactly what the enemy wants … to scare and to put fear in us. I did not see the movie but I did see the previews. God tells us to be very careful what we put before our eyes , ears and spirit. It may not affect you now but it will. These things do happen foreal. I wish that hollywood would stop playing with these demonic spirits and things. because oneday there will be an end of days. Judgement day, the devil will be released for those that are still back here that were not taken up when the Son of God comes back for his church. Those that are left behind will deal with tourture like this I can rest assure you. I pray that all that reads this that God will touch your hearts and change your ways. In Jesus Name!!!!!

  23. WOW Sweets, thats taking it a bit too far. Those of us that watch horror movies are not devil worshipers. How else do we know what evil is without witnessing it, even if in movies. I personally am going to see this movie tomorrow now that it is in my town and I don’t think that makes me a bad person. If you aren’t interested in the movie why did you read the review and make a comment. Free speech is alive and well my friend you may want to think about that the next time you put down people for watching a movie.

  24. well said, deb.
    i think jesus wants you to lighten up, sweets.

    i am super psyched to see this movie and am looking forward to a good scare. hope to catch it late tonight.

    seems to be taking the blair witch route of super hype that builds expectations that an ultimately disappointing product could never live up to. so i’m gonna try to go in with low expectations and keeping in mind it was made for 11 grand.

    love the pOV style and think this could be one of the scariest movies of the year.
    it looks like the fourth kind thats coming out in a few weeks is using some interesting POV type techniques too. anybody know anything about that one?

  25. Woohoo..This movie just came to Indianpolis. Can’t wait to see it tomm. It’s almost at the 1 million demand mark! It’s too bad horror films sucks now dayz. “The Last House on the Left” and “Quarantine” were some good movies. I can’t wait till tomm night!

  26. I think this movie could have been scarier, the plot is good, but you are much more concerned on the nausea and dizziness to actually get worried about the characters in the movie. I wish somebody would explain to me why it is important to make a movie with so much camera movement. It doesn’t add anything to the horror or credibility, it makes you sick, you try to control the upcoming explosive barf from the dizziness and with that control, you control your emotions, too…
    I don’t think I would recommend this movie… but if you want to see it… take a box of dramamine with you, and be a pal, offer some to the guys around you… they will appreciate it for sure!!!

  27. OK….Listen up all you naa sayers.. We live in a world of many evils and equal goods as well much more positive influential reality’s. Please take light of such hollywood entertainment as its all in good fun. My wife and I are horror film fans and are always looking to find the next portrayal of an obviously fictional story line brought to the silver screen. We are God fearing, respectable and hard working americans with every right to find humor and entertainment through the eyes of a creative screen writer. Tonight we saw a “movie” that scared the daylights out of both of us, due to the nature of the films origin and the limited availability of information to boost the hype of the ever so profitable “must see to believe” viewing tactics….Anyone remember Blair Witch or Fargo…. All initially promoted as true stories or based on actual events. Money talks and unfortunately money rules. we had an amazing time together and walked away with a good laugh and our relationship with God as well as our souls intact. Please remember what the belief in God is about and its just that “faith”. Science provides much counter evidence against the existence of the good lord as well as religion backing up its equivalent, much more faith related counter offer. At the end of the day we all walk away with our own self indulging impressions of the viewing as well as a choice to fully absorb the creative information as fact or fiction, again faith and hope is our life line above all else. I for one am secure enough in my relationship with the almighty to walk to the shadows of evil and come out out the otherside knowing my relationship with my beautiful all-forgiving, all loving, maker prevails. For all of you above that are shooting down the watchers and seekers its obvious that you are the one that must reevaluate your understanding of the good book, not to mention your faith – - let me guess, you voted for Obama? nuf said. Hey, great movie with an incredible, seat gripping story line with the tools to scare you senseless—-all in good fun. Take care all of you and god bless! For us it was a great movie and incredibly entertaining, a must see… much more of a fearful impact if you watch before reading everyone’s BS opinions or watching any trailers.

  28. I saw this move today and was amazed by how much fear this could put in you on a 11k budget and the fear doesn’t really even hit you untill your laying down to sleep that night. Definately worth the watch

  29. Somebody is going to be swimming in a pool of money by then end of this all.

    Seriously for 11K this movie had a lot of ups and downs. Caught me laughing, had me going “Don’t do that you FOOL!!!” and had adrenaline building in my veins.

    Not saying its the best scary movie ever but this is NOT a movie that bombed. Trust me there are worse movies that came out just this year, actually there are worse movies period than Paranormal Activity.

    Finally I would like to say congratulations to Oren Peli. For a first time filmmaker to create a 11 grand, 1 hour 39 minute long movie that delivers what it was designed for, congrats and keep it up!!!! Can’t wait to see what Area 51 is about.

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