MOVIE REVIEW: Paranormal Activity Works For One Reason: It’s Very Good!

By now, pretty much the entire North American population is aware that Paranormal Activity – the little movie that could – was shot on a budget of $15,000. College and midnight screenings were packed and the response was almost universally good, so Paramount Pictures – after kudos by people like Steven Spielberg – decided to open the film wide this weekend. [The nearly $8 million it made last weekend – on barely 200 screens probably has something to do with that, too – along with the 1,000,000 signatures on an internet petition “demanding” its wide release…]

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The story of what happens to Katie [Katie Featherstone] and Micah [Micah Sloat] over a period of twenty-one days and nights is an old-fashioned horror story. It builds slowly and deliberately from a period of getting to know the couple [lots of light humor, with the occasional intimation of weirdness] and thence to stuff that goes bump [sometimes literally] in the night.

Even before the first overt scare [an open door moving a few inches – then moving back to its original position], there’s something just slightly off about the couple and their house – enough to create the tiniest of knots in the pit of one’s stomach. Then, and only then, does the weirdness begin to accelerate. There’s the moving door; breezes out of nowhere; shadows that pass over a door; stomping footsteps; scrabbling footsteps [like amplified mice, or rats] and more. By the time Paranormal Activity reaches its final scene – and one big, final scare – even an unexpected cough from the audience is enough to create a jolt.

By insisting that the audience pay attention – and by not showing whatever-the-heck it-is that’s causing the couple’s terror – the audience is forced to exercise its own imagination. And that, can produce scary $#!+ enough to unnerve anyone. It also helps that the good looking couple is “real” good looking – as opposed to “Hollywood” good looking. Katie and Micah are far more relatable than any movie stars because they are real and unaffected. What effects there are, are practical, for the most part. That final scene has been juiced up a bit on a re-shoot, but is apparently just a more muscular version of what writer/director Oren Peli originally shot.

It’s only after leaving the theater that I realized that Micah was the stupid guy who usually dies first in Hollywood horror flicks. His insistence that he can, through technology, figure out how to defeat a supernatural evil – in the face of growing evidence to the contrary – might be endearing under other circumstances. Here, it’s both a source of horror and hilarity. He doesn’t have the sense to realize that he’s being toyed with and because of that – and his refusal to let Katie get help – that really unnerves.

There are, Peli seems to be saying, some things that don’t gave a damn about our technology. And they bite!

Final Grade: A

7 thoughts on “MOVIE REVIEW: Paranormal Activity Works For One Reason: It’s Very Good!”

  1. This was the WORST movie I have ever seen! It's not AT ALL scary – boring as hell! Don't waste your time or money! I wish someone would've warned me – I'd rather go to the dentist for sure!

  2. I totally and profusely disagree. I believe that it is a very well executed horror film, I was surely scared. Of course what scares one will not always scare another. Feeling are VERY objective most, if not all all, of the time. The seemingly realistic take of the movie made it the worst for me. And, to think that these sort of instances could and have been found to be real. Of course that, again, is not clear. All in all, I liked it (even though it scared the living daylight out of me.)

  3. Movie was entertaining, original and frightening. There is a backlash growing among some of the more imagination challenged viewers such as Cheri above, who require blood, guts & CGI to enjoy their movies. This movie is old-school a-la Hitchock – lots of anticipatory scenes which build tension among those who get into it but comes off as boring to those who don't understand why the movie isn't laden with special effects and monsters.

    If you're into classic suspense/horror, don't listen to the people complaining about how 'boring' it is, you'll enjoy it. If your idea of a good movie is lots of gore & special effects, don't waste your money, you'll be disappointed.

  4. I do not like the bloody gory horror films, but do like suspenseful scary movies. I can say the movie was suspenseful and definately interesting,but I found myself yawning a couple times throughout the movie. It only kept my attention because I wanted to see what was going to happen next. To me, it was not a scary movie as it was hyped up to be. I was personally disappointed and wished I had waited for the home release.

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