Monday, October 12, 2009

Paranormal Activity (Review)

Paranormal Activity

Paranormal Activity (2009)

Directed by Oren Peli

So it was inevitable that I would see Paranormal Activity as it's all the hype and rage of late. As a horror blogger, it would be shameful of me not see this. So the odd part is I did not see this during a midnight madness showing (though I did try to go to one) but on a lazy Sunday mid-afternoon show with a few sporadic jabronis and Joe and Joanna Moviegoer. It would have been cooler to see this with Geeks and The Core, but you have to make do with what you got right?

Another disclaimer before I review is I saw the Paramount cut with the Spielberg ending and not the original uncut movie. To get a feel of what was changed head over to The Horror Effect and B-Movie Becky can explain.

So what did the jaded viewer think?

Paranormal Activity is a very creepy and scary movie that follows the shaky cam/found footage formula to a tee. It doesn't live up to the hype, but it does get very close. The movie relies on ingrained fear of the unknown and tosses some sound effects, shadow and bizarre creepiness and an ending that people won't forget.

As I mentioned before, The Paranormal Activity Effect will be echoed by all the major studios. It's a testament to what a $15,000 dollar budget, one week shoot and no name actors can accomplish. You think The Blair Witch Project can only happen once in a lifetime, but 10 years later, it's happened again in the full internet age to boot. Wow. What a fuckin accomplishment.
Indie horror is still alive and for once the big studios took advantage instead of relegating good horror (like Trick R Treat) to Best Buy DVD shelves.

Paranormal Activity is genuinely an anomaly within the horror genre, blasting through the clutter of zombies, vampires and monsters. Unseen demon spookiness is a lost art form and I am glad PA brings it back in a very clever way.

So on to a breakdown review.

Boring Plot-O-Matic

After a young, middle class couple moves into what seems like a typical suburban 'starter' tract house, they become increasingly disturbed by a presence that may or may not be somehow demonic but is certainly most active in the middle of the night. Especially when they sleep. Or try to.

Awesome Review-O-Matic

As I watched this flick, the Blair Witch comparisons are inevitable. But more so, I was drawn to compare this to another POV/found footage/shaky cam film that came out recently called Evil Things (full review here). They both are similar in following the formula BWP invented. The only difference is one is now a cult phenomenon and the other is nowhere on anybody's horror radar.

But let's get to the breakdown by seeing how Paranormal Activity worked the BWP formula to perfection.

  • The camera "person" films everything
  • His friends who become part of the video
  • Something sinister starts to scare them
  • The film ends with "the final shot" that gets the audience shocked

The camera "person" films everything

Micah and Katie both work the camera so we can get at least 99 minutes of footage. Though the motives are better explained as to why Micah is taping everything. With the paranormal shit having happened before the movie starts, there is justification that Micah wants to be a ghost hunter himself and record everything. Both Micah and Katie give strong performances and come out as very "real" in their ad-libbed and emotional diatribes. They seem to be a natural couple, not Hollywood 20-something actor clones. Katie has that Pam Beasley Office look while Micah comes off as a fantasy football/geek personality.

Katie's persona as a haunted life long victim of this demon comes off as very sincere and you feel for her. But to me, the best reality show character motif comes from Micah who plays the arrogant, SOB boyfriend to a tee. It's a twist within this genre. Usually the characters play off scared, than fuckin totally frightened. But Micah goes all tough guy, calling out the entities that have invaded his home and his girlfriend. His elaborate "traps" to capture evidence is a clever cat and mouse game between him and Demon X. I liked the fact he was brave enough to challenge and though many hated this in Micah, I loved his alpha male -ism.

His friends who become part of the video

Only 2 other characters show up and become part of the footage. The Psychic whose scared shitless and Katie's friend. Can you believe this movie had only 4 people on film?

Something sinister starts to scare them

I'm not going to go over each of the "Night" scenes but some more than others were effective. The daytime scenes are filled with humor, concern and infighting while the meat and potatoes of the movie are the night scenes. It's the tripod camera footage that we all were waiting to see. Katie's eternal standing, Ouija board and the other WTF scene around #13 or so (not sure) worked the best. The others (keys, light switching) seem to be unscary. But it's the buildup that counts as you the paranormal activity goes from low to medium than to mega high. It's a slowburn and by the ending, it's raining hellfire.

The film ends with "the final shot" that gets the audience shocked

The Spielberg ending is a decent way to end it though if you read the original ending, it also seems more realistic and probably worked effectively as well. You tell me. If you saw the original ending vs the Spielberg ending, which one was better?

Paranormal Activity probably wouldn't have worked if say it was released in July. But in October, with Halloween in the air it's just the awesome piece of candy amongst all the crappy candy corn in your bag of horror treats. It is very scary, to tweens and jabronis probably 100x scary but to the Core and the Geeks, we look at it a little differently. Insano Steve said a few times, why don't they turn on all the lights? Whats with this camera light as the only light source?!?! I agree. We all have gripes with the logic but it wouldn't be a horror movie if they turned on all the lights, right? Also, the daytime "scares" broke the mold which gave me a happy.

Because of many of these happy thoughts, Paranormal Activity works. It works as a faux documentary/POV film, it works as a scary and creepy film and it works as one of the best horror films of 2009.


Negative Zero

WTF moment

The second to last scene
The ending

The Jaded Viewer's Final Prognosis

Here's hoping the DVD has both endings. I am very curious to see what was cut and what was added. You're not going to see a better movie this October (other than probably Zombieland).

Regardless of my review, you're going to see this movie because the hype has gotten so farfetched, it's at ludicrous speed. All I can say is bring down your expectations and go in with having your fear jolted a few times.

Paranormal Activity will probably end up on my Top 10 Horror Films of 2009 as well as many within the horror-blogosphere. As you all know, those lists are one of the prime indicators you've made it within the horror-sphere. See it in the theater in a packed room and let the mass fear hysteria begin.


Check out the trailer.

jaded viewer related linkage:
The Paranormal Activity Effect
Evil Things (Review)
Rec (Review)

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  1. I just don't get it. I watched this last night and hated every moment of this movie. Total bore.


  2. I kinda liked the Blair Witch so I'm in that camp of liking faux documentaries and lost footage movies when they are done right. I mean it's really not scary but the scenes are very clever and thats why I decided to give it a higher rating than it should actually get.

  3. Great review. I'm glad you enjoyed. WTF moment is probably the best way to describe that deep sound (when the chandelier shakes) and the second to last scene. In terms of the two endings, I wish I could mix the two because I don't like the CG at the very end. Oh well. All in all, I think I prefer the original, but I saw that first so that might be affecting my attitude towards the new stuff. Thanks for the link as well. :)

  4. I saw this movie last Friday at midnight and I was kind of disappointed - I guess I was expecting it to be scarier. The build was boring, I expected the whole movie to be "the scariest movie ever" or whatever, not just the end parts. All in all I did like it, the ending got really terrifying and I don't use that term loosely. I think you should check out 'House of the Devil' for your Best of '09 list. I watched it last week and I really enjoyed it. It's definitely on my top 10 in '09 list, along with Zombieland and probably Paranormal Activity.

  5. Hey AtomicFox - Funny you mentioned that, I just watched House of the Devil and had a "ehhh..ok" reaction. My review for that is up for that. Scary it was not for Paranormal but damn clever. For that it, gets high marks.

    Nice blog BTW!

  6. I haven't been able to shake this one. I'm a horror movie conniseur, and this is the first one I've ever seen that has left me longing for sleep when I go home.

  7. It's like watching Ghost Hunters or one of those paranormal shows and actually seeing something substantial. I mean those shows you never see anything. Seeing the crazy spooky stuff in Paranormal was like seeing a big explosion is a summer blockbuster.

  8. Anybody who gave this movie a good review obviously didn't see it. The only thing scary about this movie is that you actually have to pay to see it. For someone who likes horror movies, this one was a disgrace. How dare someone push this crap at us.

  9. I agree scarynot. It's NOT a scary movie unless your a tween (which I saw many tweens have a scaredy face). The hype was well...a little too much for a film that relies on the faux documentary and limtited CGI. But its damn clever and shot well for a pretend ghost encounter. Hence why I gave it a high rating.

  10. Are you people serious. This movie was so lame. The only reason people left in the first ten minutes of the movie was to get there money back. Hell and I should have been right along with them. The high school students that made this movie did an ok job. It seemed it scared some teenie bopers. Well i was taken on this one this is what I get for listening to critics payed of by paramount movies.

  11. Hey hey you all. We couldn't say it was ever meant to be a regular horror movie. It goes where, I think it wants to go. really clever. And, thus, let's be realistic; whoever can get a $10,000 loan, make something like Paranormal Activities and make millions, has to be a genious!
    Well they are. And for that I congratulate them. I just watched it and I am wondering if me girlfriend knows whoever produced this movie, since her constant feeling and waffling of “OMG something reeeeeeaaaaallyyyy baaaad is gonna hapen right now!” made the whole row where we were seating jump. Hahahaha!!! jokes on them, I guess...
    Summing up. I say that it is a good one that came out for the right reasons (Halloween) and at the right time (well...Halloween!!!)
    The only thing I wonder is if, after the P.A. effect is assimilated, this two young actors (or 4) will be ever able to act again in another horror or a different genre movie.

    By the way, I am already preparing me own movie...but it will be way mor eelaborated, so to say, so, there is a possibility you might all see it soon...or neve r(hopefully soon!)

  12. Well there ya go. The last 2 comments are a perfect example of how people are torn between the 2 flicks. It's this generations Blair Witch. And you can't deny how its been mega successful.

  13. Boring! Granted it did so-so for a small budget movie, the plot is very bland. The predictable dialog is very tedious, the lack of music may have worked for "I am Legend", but only caters to the monotonous energy this movie emanates.

    I found myself just simply waiting for the end.