Movie: "Paranormal Activity"
Year: 2007
Rated: R
Genre: Horror
Directed by: Oren Peli
Writing credits: Oren Peli

Reviewer: Protoclown
Posted: 9/23/2010

Plot: A foolish couple moves into a suburban home and soon discover they are haunted by a demonic presence, and they make stupid decision after stupid decision until things go very badly for them.

Review: I'd heard nothing but raving about Paranormal Activity and how utterly terrifying it was, so when it came around to the local $2 theater at the end of last year I decided to check it out. And I have to say, if I had spent more than that I would have felt ripped off, as I found it highly disappointing. It's not that the movie was bad exactly, it's just that it wasn't particularly good.

The premise sounds fantastic: another "found footage" film where a couple haunted by a mysterious force decides to film their bedroom while they sleep. It sounds scary enough--after all, when are we more vulnerable than when we're asleep? It's the kind of thing that, if presented properly, would keep anybody up at night. The execution however was a bit lacking, as the claims I'd read saying the film avoided horror cliches were blatantly false. It's basically The Blair Witch Project all over again, but the thing is, Blair Witch did it better, mostly in part to a brilliant marketing campaign that was actually better than the movie itself.

The inherent problem with the setup of this film is that it shows us various nights where Katie and Micah sleep in their bedroom, but the "found footage" only bothers to show nights where something creepy happens (whatever fictional person "found" the film and compiled it all together after the fact would have left out the irrelevant and uneventful nights, as is only natural). The problem with this is that the film telegraphs exactly when something scary is going to happen. "Okay, you think, we're settling in to watch 'Night # 13' and now I know that something fucked up is going to happen." So you're completely ready for every bit of it.

The creepiest moment in the film occurs early on, when Micah still doubts his fiancee Katie's claims that something is haunting her. Up to that point, there have been the occasional odd sounds, but nothing that couldn't be explained by natural creaking house noises. It's during one of the early nights after Micah has scoffed at the idea that it could be something supernatural that the two characters suddenly hear an otherworldly scream, followed by a loud slamming sound. At this point Micah reacts with true fear, and it's the audience's proper introduction to the phenomenon that up to that point Katie has only referred to. It's the scariest moment in the film, and the fact that it occurs within the first twenty minutes doesn't speak well for the remainder of the movie.

From this point on, despite being met with overwhelming evidence that there is something supernatural going on in their home, Micah adamantly and foolishly refuses to take it seriously, believing that the ability to defend his own home is a point of pride as a man, despite the fact that he can neither see nor touch his home's invader. Katie complains about how his stupid behavior (taunting the demon, calling it out, trying to communicate with it via ouija board) is endangering her, but she fails to truly put her foot down and make him stop. And Micah stubbornly and stupidly refuses to accept any aid from experts who deal with the supernatural, insisting that he has "a plan" (he must be a cylon).

The ending of the movie is the dumbest part, and where it truly lost me and damaged all that came before beyond repair. I don't want to spoil things by mentioning specifics, but I will say that the climax occurs off-camera, as the characters both end up downstairs in response to the events that are taking place. We hear a lot of terrible screaming and shouting, left only with our imaginations as to what just occurred. This I have no problem with at all. What I do have a problem with is the contrived shit that follows as an excuse to get the characters back upstairs and in front of the camera again. There is no reason for it aside from "oh yeah, we're making a movie", and the film ends with a completely pointless "lunge at the camera" moment which is probably my most hated cliche in all horror films. It was laughably stupid, and while most of the others in the theater were screaming, I was rolling my eyes at how ridiculous it was. I've read descriptions of two alternate endings that would have been much better than that lame shit, and I can easily come up with about half a dozen stronger ways to end the film as well. The ending we got felt like the sort of thing a twelve year old might come up with because they just didn't know how to end the story.

Drag Me to Hell is another film that came out in 2009 (this is the year that Paranormal Activity had wide theatrical release) that has a lot of parallels to this one (girl is being haunted by a demon, the characters are idiots), but it was much more enjoyable than this. By not being constrained by the "found footage" narrative style that only shows us the nights when crazy shit happens, the film actually has you on the edge of your seat a little more. And though it too is riddled with cliches, Raimi's film embraces them, rather than pretending to be above them but utilizing them anyway and simply hoping no one will notice. If you're going to see one demonic haunting movie from 2009, do yourself a favor and make it Drag Me to Hell instead of this one.

Overall rating: WholeWholeHalf
(Scored on a 0.5 - 5 pickles rating: 0.5 being the worst and 5 being the best)

Reader Comments

Sep 23rd, 2010, 04:05 AM
As my friend put it, it's a horror movie about two people that have never seen a horror movie. And most of your description in the fourth paragraph there pretty much confirms it. I remember seeing all the hype for it and also remember thinking that it did have to be pretty contrived.
Forum Virgin
Sep 23rd, 2010, 06:50 AM
Look up the alternate ending. I believe it's the ending used in Europe. It doesn't make up for the rest of the movie, but it's a much better ending.
Sep 23rd, 2010, 10:41 AM
Drag me to hell was amazing. Paranormal Activity has a sequel coming out
Sep 23rd, 2010, 11:17 AM
I never once thought that this movie seemed interesting enough to make me watch it.

I'd ask for your $2.00 back if I were you.
Forum Virgin
Sep 23rd, 2010, 11:40 AM
Drag Me to Hell was a tad disappointing to me, but I did love the ending.
Sep 23rd, 2010, 05:41 PM
Don't let Dread Central see this. They are still circle jerking over how great this film is supposed to be and how anyone who does not like it is probably a pedophile cannibal. Drag me to hell any day of the week over this mess.
The Claw of Justice
Sep 23rd, 2010, 06:53 PM
Count me in as one of the ones who was disappointed by this. It was tense, but not scary.

Drag Me To Hell, on the other hand, actually scared me, and it was only PG-13. Sam Raimi is a master.
King of the Monsters
Sep 24th, 2010, 12:01 AM
I still don't feel like seeing this, doesn't appeal to me, and got tired of Dread Central's continuous gushing over it.
Sam Sam is offline
The Unicorn
Sep 24th, 2010, 12:11 AM
Two and a half pickles is way to generous for this piece of crap.
Sex Panther
Sep 24th, 2010, 01:49 AM
I couldn't agree more. The only part that even made me jump was the drunk guy in the theater who decided to scream at the top of his lungs during the breakfast scene.
Sep 24th, 2010, 06:39 AM
This was the kind of movie you needed to watch at home alone.
Punk Rock Hamster
Sep 24th, 2010, 09:25 AM
This movie was terrible, boring, and not at all scary. The alternate ending on the copy I got from Netflix was better, but nothing new. And the way the characters interacted was so unrealistic, most women aren't okay when their husband doesn't listen about picking up dirty socks. I'm pretty sure I'd leave a guy who was dead set on pissing off an evil spirit that's been haunting me my whole life, especially after I warned him repeatedly.
Sep 24th, 2010, 11:32 AM
Originally Posted by BatmanJohnson View Post
This was the kind of movie you needed to watch at home alone.
home alone was probably a scarier movie

dudes were gonna bite his fingers off
Sep 24th, 2010, 01:27 PM
I did actually watch this movie home alone, in the middle of the night, but I found it boring as hell.
Sep 26th, 2010, 03:24 AM
Terrible movie, I simply hated it. The part where the Ouija board caught on fire made everyone in the theater laugh.
Forum Virgin
Sep 27th, 2010, 09:52 PM
Fell asleep. Movie was that boring.
Forum Virgin
Sep 28th, 2010, 01:15 PM
I want to know why any self respecting demon would have followed that annoying beyotch around for years and years going so far as to keep childhood photos of her in the attic is beyond me. Seriously, demon, get a life already. If you had supernatural powers and could haunt any lady you like, why would you choose her? Sheesh.

In all honesty, besides the main characters both being stupid, right up until things start getting really freaky, all the "scary things" could easily have been explained away by a cat. Or squirrels in the walls. You know, seriously, my cat does way more disturbing things than the demon does, in fact, I'd rather have a demon than the cat. At least the demon politely goes and hides in the attic when caught, my cat just meows at me and tries to attack me going up the stairs.

Come to think of it, a horror movie about my cat would have been scarier!