Visuals / Camera
Pacing / Editing
Entertainment Value / X-Factor
Mood / Atmosphere
It's like The Blair Witch Project for a new generation.
This is the movie that started the whole found footage surge in horror, and it's still one of the best.
Paranormal Activity Plot Summary
After moving into a suburban home, a couple becomes increasingly disturbed by a nightly demonic presence.
I’m sure we’re all familiar with this movie by now. It is without a doubt a huge independent success. Just by the way it looked and the promotion surrounding it, Paranormal Activity reminded me of The Blair Witch Project, which was of course, another independent success. Paranormal Activity was only being shown in select theaters, but due to popular demand it went nation-wide. There’s no doubt about it, there was some great promoters involved with this flick. I remember before it went nation-wide, I was enthralled by the previews being shown on television, but at the same time, it reminded me of The Blair Witch Project, of which I was not a fan. Thankfully, I did enjoy Paranormal Activity.
Paranormal Activity is better, in my opinion, than most movies that utilize the point-of-view camera. Why? It seems more realistic to me. I find it easier to believe in the paranormal, rather than a monster, zombies, and a “witch” you never see, etc… Also, through most of the movie, the camera is on a tri-pod, so lucky for us, the camera isn’t going all crazy through-out the whole movie. Even when the camera is being held by someone, it’s pretty stable. So, if you get motion sickness, which I don’t, this movie will probably be easier to digest than most movies that utilize this style of filming.
Paranormal Activity takes a little bit before things really begin to kick in. I’ve actually heard people say that they thought the movie is boring. Sure, it’s not action packed but if you pay attention, there’s a reason for this. The actual paranormal activity in the film goes by the situations that are in the house. I think some people may have forgotten about what the Psychic said when he first came over to the house.
Now, without giving too much away, other than the obvious, when the Psychic first visited the house he said that negative energy will feed the spirit. Also, the Psychic said not to introduce the spirit to an Ouija board or else you’re just inviting it in. Of course, all of this stuff does happen. I mean, as things start going down and constantly getting worse, the overall mood in the house is not going to be very good. You have the girlfriend whom has been haunted by the spirit for quite some time and she’s just simply tired of it. I don’t know about you, but sleepless nights certainly urk me as well. Now, imagine if that happened night after night. Next, you have the boyfriend. He’s fascinated by the spirit and wants to learn more and more about it, while trying to document it. So, he sets up the camera and basically stalks his own girlfriend with it. He also tries his damndest to get the spirit to react. Usually, this is by taunting the spirit. Not a smart move, huh?
As I said, the movie just takes time to build up and it’s more realistic than most ghost movies. There are some nights where they don’t catch anything at all on video or voice. To me, if on the first night the spirit was dancing around the room and punching people in the face while they sleep, the movie would lose its realism. In my opinion, Paranormal Activity was a good movie, but if you’re expecting it to be action-packed right from the get-go, you’re going to be disappointed.
So, here comes the part where I have to give the movie a rating. Is Paranormal Activity one of the scariest movies of all time, if not the scariest movie of all time? In my opinion, it is not. Some people may think so and I have actually had people say to me that it’s the scariest movie they’ve ever seen. To me, it definitely does not deserve to be known as one of the scariest movies of all time. However, it is a good movie. This is one of those movies that use the point-of-view shooting style to its advantage and it feels way more realistic than most movies that do this. If you want to see a flick with your girlfriend and don’t mind getting dug into by her nails, you’ll take her to see this movie. It’s one of those movies.
Despite being a point-of-view film, the camera is placed on a tripod through a good bit of the movie, so we don’t get too much shaky cam.
It doesn’t fall into the found footage trap of making the monster too obvious too early on, thereby spoiling some of the illusion of realism
The use of sound coming from the dark, and the less-obvious visual gags maintained the feeling of something unknown, thereby making it less predictable
The acting is well-done and feels natural for the most part
They cheat their way around the “camera still being on even during time of danger” complaint by making it a vocal point of contention between Micah and Katie. And they often have the camera in a stationary position when danger is occurring
The characters can be a bit annoying at times.
Neither the more explicit nor the subtler scares stay with the audience. True to the name, it’s kind of like watching a more staged paranormal investigation show
The official theatrical ending is “monster goes for the camera” jump scare, which is not only cheap, but not that effective, especially on re-watches
Paranormal Activity is an independent success that just came out of nowhere, and for good reason. As I stated above, this film really shook the world of horror at its core, because it inspired so many found footage films after its release and has spawned its own franchise of films. Honestly, it can be difficult to remember that you’re watching an indie horror film that was shot on a $17k budget, even though the sequels are as Hollywood as it gets.
Paranormal Activity is a good flick, and you have to respect it for what the filmmakers were able to accomplish on such a small budget.