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Paranormal Activity - Scary Perfection

Paranormal Activity

Horror film makers either understand the key to suspense, or don't. Those who do understand this concept make films that live on through the ages. For those who don't, they make movies that are forgotten easily. Paranormal Activity is a film from makers that understand how to provoke suspense, and know how to use it to their advantage.

Like almost all classic horror films, this one has a very simple plot. When a soon to be married couple believe that something is haunting them during the night, they begin to video tape themselves while they are asleep. A few weeks later, their footage was found. This film is the discovered footage. That synopsis alone gives me chills. But it is the execution of this innovative idea that makes this movie effective.

This movie, to me, represents the future of film making. Now that we have seen at least two incredibly low budget films (Blair Witch Project; Paranormal Activity) perform exceptionally well at the box office, more and more possibilities are out there for young directors with limited supplies. The cameras used in this film are ones that you or I could find at the local Best Buy, so that lowers the film's budget. Also lowering the cost of the movie is using young actors looking to break into Hollywood. In the future, I am guessing we will soon find the "no-budget" horror film genre to be the next big thing.

Like I said, the makers of this film understand what suspense is. Lesser educated film makers making a movie like this would have probably relied on startling "jump at you" surprises to scare the audience. Such surprises are incredibly cheap, and are entirely forgettable. Suspenseful moments in a film are what keep the audience up at night, thinking twice about the noises they hear in the night. These moments are also the ones that take the most effort and talent to create. This is a reason I appreciate Paranormal Activity more than anything. The film is about 100% heart.

While Paranormal Activity is likely the scariest movie of the decade, it is not a perfect film. There are few unanswered questions left at the end, and under-developed subplots throughout. But what if these questions were tied together too tight at the end? If this was the case, the movie would have lost its treasured realism. Sometimes a movie may even be better with such questions left at the end. Just look at the 1978 horror classic, Halloween. Why did Michael Myers stalk Jamie Lee Curtis? The answer, as you now know from watching the sequels, is some garbage about her being his long-lost sister. But in the original, this unanswered mystery provided that extra chill down your spine while watching Myers kill for pleasure.

Paranormal Activity is about the most fun you will have at the movies this year, depending on your taste. But, like it or not, one must admit that this movie is one of the most effective horror films of all time. It tried to be a realistic, plausible, suspenseful film, and achieved it with what looked like ease. Also worth noting is the film's ending, which I consider to be one of the best scenes in a film of the year.
5 / 5 stars

Review by Mark Lengeiza


This was the worst porno film I've ever had the displeasure of watching. Where was the sex???  It was just nothing but those in between scenes where the girl tells the guy to shut the camera off. Usually there's a payoff... Wait this was supposed to be an amateur sex tape right? Because that's exactly how it felt.


Now I know, the point was to make the film seem real, as if these events were actually happening to these people.  However, I just can’t say that they succeeded in doing so.  These characters do not feel like real people.  Sure, the quality of the camera-work seems like something that real people could do.  Of course, the effects used in this movie do not feel overly fake like they do in most horror films.  What makes this film fail is that the characters themselves fall right into the same horror movie cliché.  They are so stupid to the point that no real person would have reacted to their situation the same way, and thus, loses all believability.


The male character in the film, Micah, plays the stereotypical horror character that throughout the film thinks he can outsmart, outfight, and basically beat the villain, just because he is so cool.  I like to call this character “the horror tool.”  Micah fits the bill precisely.  Why would any person who actually believes that a demon is haunting their house and their girlfriend go around provoking said demon?  Well, because it moves the plot along and gives you some resemblance to a story (which there is very little to begin with).  A real, rational thinking person would do anything they can to make the paranormal activity go away.  This guy wants to make it mad.  Typical horror tool behaviour.


The female character, Katie, is a lot more believable.  However, she doesn’t do enough to try and stop what is happening to her and just kind of lets Micah run the show.  In order for a film to feel real, to have the kind of suspense that everyone is praising Paranormal Activity for, you have to be able to relate to the characters.  You have to be able to feel sympathy for the characters.  You have to think to yourself that what you are watching on screen could happen to you.  Not once during this film did I feel any of that.


Instead, I found myself frustrated with their actions.  For example, the couple leaves the door to their bedroom wide open throughout the entire film, inviting the demon inside.  Would anybody actually do that?  I’m not suggesting that simply closing the door would have stopped the demon, but any real person would have at least tried to close and lock the door.  These two didn’t think of that.  Nor did they try very hard to bring in experts to try and solve the problem.


The film plays out just like The Blair Witch Project only inside of a house rather than in the woods.  Very little story, not much actually happens, several unnecessary boring scenes, terrible acting and about 5 minutes of genuinely creepy stuff towards the end.  This does not make a good film.  I wasn’t scared, I wasn’t on the edge of my seat, the film was actual pretty laughable to me.  I was hoping that the ending would be good, and at least give the film some form of redeeming quality, but really it was just totally anticlimactic.  I never had high hopes for the film, but it even fell below whatever curiosity I had, sparked by all the praise it had been given.  This was by far the worst film I have seen this year, and really the worst I have seen in a long time.


1 / 5 stars

Review by Don Hill

To begin the review, Holy Hell! This movie is scary. Not Saw 5 or Halloween remake scary. I am talking Blair Witch Project, The Exorcist, or The Ring scary. I am talking goosebumps and wide-eyes scary. The kind of scary that makes most of the audience laugh after gasping or screaming. That nervous “I am just watching a movie, it isn't real” laughter after nearly pissing themselves from the fear. This movie is simply awesome in its simplicity. That simplicity makes it even more realistic and frightening.   I LOVE the credits and once you see the movie you will understand.

For those of you living under a rock, Paranormal Activity is the story of Micah and Katie and their new apartment. Micah is filming Katie with his brand new camera in their great apartment. It all looks wonderful for the first 2 minutes of the movie until Katie starts talking about the haunting that has been around her for the last 20 years. This haunting has followed her from house to house her entire life and now that she is living with Micah, the activity has increased. Micah buys a video camera to try to capture proof and away we go.

The first obvious comparison everybody makes is to the Blair Witch Project. Hand-held camera footage, limited cast, and a haunted plot. I concede that BWP paved the way for PA, but do not make the mistake that this reduces the scares in this movie. If this movie had been remade by Paramount as was originally intended when they purchased it, it would have lessened the impact. The film is a work of perfection and to dilute it with big budget FX and lighting would have weakened it as a whole.

The acting is great and there are times when you almost believe that Katie is genuinely frightened. I can imagine that filming a movie like this would bring out the fear in a person. If she wasn't scared she deserves an award. Micah also does a terrific job of playing the tough unbelieving macho male for most of the movie before he begins to succumb to the knowledge that he is out of his element.

The movie has very few jump scares and instead relies on tension and mood. The mood is unbelievable and the tension is intense. The saying “tension so thick you could cut it with a knife” does not do it justice. You would need a chainsaw. There are moments when the audience is collectively holding their breath and staring wide eyed at the screen waiting for something to happen. It could be as simple as a bump or a shadow or a rustling of the plants but that tension ratchets away at you and halfway through the movie you are a bundle of nerves. I lost count of how many times I sat staring around the screen, waiting, just waiting for something to happen, knowing that it would eventually and it would scare the crap out of me.  I got goosebumps several times and a shiver in the spine.  When was the last time that happened to you while watching a horror movie?  

A movie like this comes along very rarely and horror fans like myself treasure these films. I rank it among the best horror movies in terms of its scare value and that is high praise indeed from me. I really think that this movie is among the scariest movies I have ever seen and I did have a few moments last night in bed in the dark when I got a bit nervous.  I slept completely under the covers like I used to as a kid.  I cannot ask for more than that. Thanks to the director and writer Oren Peli and the cast for this movie.  What are you waiting for?  Go see it now while it is still light out.

5 / 5 stars

Comments (1):

  • Aisling @ 11/18/2009 ( 3:08:32 AM )
    this was by far the scariest film, i have ever seen. i would not advice anyone to go and watch this film. i was on my way home after watching it with my sister and we felt someone in the car wih us and had to pull over and check. it give me nightmares for 2 weeks running and it was an absolute nightmare how anyone can put this on screen for anyone to view. DONT WATCH IT I BEG!
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