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310 of 361 people found the following review helpful
on November 26, 2009
A well-written review of any film should never label its subject "good" or "bad". Rather, it should give you an idea of whether or not you can expect to enjoy it, based on your own preferences and expectations. Paranormal Activity is a particularly controversial film when it comes to the potency of its terror. Most reviews either complain, with great disdain, "I hated it - it wasn't scary at all" or exclaim in total satisfaction, "It scared the pants off me - I loved it". There seems to be little in-between.

I saw the film today, having read enough reviews to know pretty much what to expect. But before I reveal my own reaction to Paranormal Activity, I would like to offer a few ideas that those who know little about this film may find helpful.

Alfred Hitchcock, the celebrated director who was known as "The Master of Suspense" held many interesting theories about what frightens an audience. Hitchcock believed that, when properly stimulated, the viewer's imagination was far more powerful - and far scarier - than many direct images that may or may not frighten the average viewer. Directly depicting a ghost, a monster or a demon for example, even with today's special effects, may scare many viewers, but that will depend solely on the quality of the effects. And even if well done, many viewers may find the images unconvincing or downright laughable, for they may have other ideas about what a ghost, monster or demon should look like.

However, if the filmmaker merely implies that a supernatural event is taking place, and sets up the situation with enough skill, the viewer's imagination can take over and sometimes yield a far more frightening experience than any vivid imagery ever will. After all, people go to horror films to be frightened, and what could be more frightening than unseen terrors from one's own imagination? By setting the mood with dark rooms, low lighting, eerie shadows and other effects that many people will associate with their greatest fears, an innocent image of two people peacefully sleeping, unaware of what may be going on about them or to them, can become very frightening indeed, even if few special effects are used. This is especially true if the moviegoer has developed enough empathy with the characters to place themselves in the same situation.

Many modern horror films rely on blood, gore and violence, with horrible creatures conjured up by special effects and vivid scenes involving battles with ugly demons or manic killers in order to provide thrills. That can be a lot of fun, and certainly very scary. But it can also be argued that, as CGI effects advance and become more vivid and frighteningly realistic, many viewers become inured to violence, blood and "creatures" while depending less and less on their own imagination, and in the process, they will sometimes forgo a far scarier experience. I know that no special effect ever came close to my own nightmares, because my nightmares are stirred by the things I fear most, and not the things that I've been conditioned to find scary. In short, no amount of vivid terrors can match the human imagination, provided that the imagination is properly stimulated.

Well, this is the basic idea behind Paranormal Activity. Largely on a shoestring budget, the writers/director/actors of Paranormal Activity have managed to create an old-fashioned thriller that relies almost exclusively on the viewer's imagination. Those who like their "scary movies" full of CGI, monsters, blood and violence are warned; you will probably be extremely disappointed. But if you have enough respect for your own imagination, and can allow yourself to be frightened not by what you see, but by what you think is there, you just may find Paranormal Activity to be every bit as frightening and well done as many people say it is.

By the way, I saw it with a friend. He did not find it frightening at all. On the other hand, I definitely expect to have trouble sleeping tonight. Whether or not you will agree may depend on how effective your own imagination can be.

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24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
on October 9, 2011
Paranormal Activity is a film about a couple, Katie and Micah, and their experience being haunted by a demon. Although the film starts off slowly as the plot is sketched out, about a third of the way into the film (when you start witnessing the paranormal activity for yourself) you are drawn into the film and can really enjoy it. The film is based on the "found footage" premise made famous my The Blair Witch Project. The viewer is told that this is a true story at the beginning, which adds to you caring about the characters and events in the film. The film is legitimately scary with a terrific ending...if you can get past the 30 minute mark you will enjoy it, but if you have a short attention span or need a whole lot of action, then avoid this movie - it's a character centric movie rather than action or special effects focused.

While I enjoyed the movie, the extras were simply non-existant. The only extra was an alternate ending. This film could have used a commentary as the story behind the film is exceptional. The director used his own home for the film, the actors were paid only $500, one of the actors was actually the cameraman, and the film is one of the most profitable films of all time. It would have been interesting to hear how the director came up with the idea, what led him to utilize the found footage premise, and how the minimal special effects were done.

I recommend that anyone interested in scary movies watch this - it's better at night curled up in bed, since most of the action takes place late at night in the couple's bedroom - but it is not a must own since there are no extras to make it a worthwhile purchase.
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23 of 30 people found the following review helpful
on December 16, 2009

STARRING: Katie Featherston, Micah Sloat and Mark Fredrichs



Rated: R
Genre: Horror
Release Date: 16 October 2009

Several movie advertisements have used this line for years and I have never found it to be even remotely true until now; so I'm going to use it: Paranormal Activity is the scariest film since The Exorcist. There, I've finally been able to use it!

Now that I have your attention, let me save half of you the three minutes that it will take you to finish reading this review and the roughly 90 it'll save you from actually watching the film. If you hated The Blair Witch Project because you thought it was stupid, then you will inevitably despise this film as well. There. See how nice of a guy I am? Now you can spend those 90 minutes doing something you enjoy.

For those of you still reading, I will take it that you appreciated the brilliant and unique style of The Blair Witch Project, as did I. You will most likely love this film as well.

The Blair Witch Project clearly inspired this film, as it has others and was a slightly better film. But Paranormal Activity is easily 10 times more frightening.

I'm told its entire budget was just 15 thousand dollars and it has already grossed over 100 million dollars at the box office.

NO; regardless of what you have heard, the film is not real. Neither was The Blair Witch Project or Quarantine or The Fourth Kind.

The film looks and feels real though, and that's why it's so terrifying. We are lead to believe that it is `found footage' by the police and that for whatever reason, they are allowing it to be released in theaters nation-wide.

The entire thing is shot with a home video camera, operated completely by the two main characters: Katie and Micah. They're a couple with a little more than a lump in the mattress causing problems in their relationship; a demon to be exact.

We learn in the first few minutes that for several nights they have witnessed strange `paranormal activity' occurring while they sleep. Micah buys the video camera and explains this to us as we meet Katie when she pulls up in their driveway. We follow them back into the house and with the exception of a scene in the backyard; we never leave the home again for the remainder of the film.

It is soon revealed that Katie has been haunted by this demonic spirit for several years, no matter where she goes. They agree to set up the video camera in their bedroom in hopes of capturing evidence of such said `paranormal activity'.

That's when it gets creepy. The camera is positioned in the same place every night and a little time dial lets us know what time it is. Every time you see the camera positioned in the corner of the room like that, you know it's about to get scary. And it does, trust me.

At first we just hear noises. Then the door moves all by itself. Then we start to see shadows and that's all I'm going to tell you.

This is not one of those movies that you will think is just so-so. You will either love it or you will hate it. You will either find it incredibly horrifying; leaving to your imagination what is causing all of this to happen or you will be completely irritated at how lame it is.

I think it is much more fun to leave it up to your imagination what the demon looks like. Yes; I know that it is just a guy downstairs making noise and turning on lights and what have you. But it's freaking scary in the movie! You let your mind believe that it's a demon and that's what makes it so fun.

The actors don't seem like actors. They feel like real people being themselves on a reality show. When the events begin to take a toll on them and they become scared, you believe that they are going through this for real. (Not literally; I mean you believe their acting performances. It's a movie people; that's all).

The only reason it's not a prefect film, is that just like in any horror movie; the characters do stupid things. Especially Micah.

You will want to strangle him by the end of the film. He is constantly being a testosterone-driven moron and challenging the demon; thus making it angrier.

Also, why didn't they ever leave the house? It's explained by a paranormal expert that leaving won't help anything but it's very obvious this is only in the movie because they wanted an excuse to be able to continue shooting in the same location.

When the paranormal expert won't help them due to the overwhelming evil presence in the house, why couldn't they have called in someone else? I'm sure he wasn't the only one around.

Regardless if you get slightly annoyed by this towards the end of the film like I did, they make it up to you in the last 20 minutes or so. Most of the film drags on and I can see how it can be boring. But trust me, if you can make it to the end you will be more than satisfied!

It is truly disturbing. I was on the edge of my seat the entire time. Every time they go to bed and you see the little time dial, it's like listening to the tick tack of a roller coaster climbing to the top of the track; you know that something awful but exciting lies just ahead and you can't help but cringe and your heart is racing.

I know the film is fake but I am still amazed at how they were able to pull off some of the events that take place. There are no wires folks; there are no obvious bad computer graphics either. The filmmakers took their 15 grand and spent it very wisely. I'm glad to have given them my money. It was the best 7 bucks I've spent to be scared in a very long time.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on April 14, 2010
Suburban San Diego, 2006: Micah and Katie are two well-to-do suburbanites who, cosmetically at least, seem to be living the idyllic life of two young lovers in a palatial San Diego house. But Micah and Katie have a problem. Something oddly disquieting appears to have invaded their home. It bangs doors, causes the stairs to creak and makes alarming noises in the middle of the night. Being of a somewhat pugnacious nature, Micah decides to document the phenomenon using a Hi-Def video camera in the hope of getting to the bottom of what is going on - and thanks to his tenacious documentation over the course of twenty one nights during September and October, the viewer is treated to a first-hand account of what happens next.

The first-hand docudrama is by now a well worn trope of the horror genre. Films like The Legend of Boggy Creek and The Blair Witch Project have attempted to blur the lines of horror and fact by embracing improvised performances and verite style shooting for going on nearly forty years now. When they're done well (as in the case of "Blair Witch" and BBC TV's Ghostwatch [Region 2]) they can be genuinely spine-tingling and when they're done badly (as in the case of the execrable George A. Romero's Diary of the Dead) they can be amongst the most painfully awful viewing experiences that one ever has to endure.

"Paranormal Activity" sits somewhere in the middle of these two extremes - its not a terrible documentary horror film, but it's not a particularly good one either.

Why is this?

Well, largely, because establishing and then maintaining the balance of a documentary horror movie effectively is a very difficult thing to achieve, and director Oren Peli doesn't quite make the grade for a variety of reasons. Chief amongst them is the fact that his two leads don't quite possess the acting chops to carry off the movie; a film like this is either made or broken by it's actors and unfortunately Micha Sloat and Katie Featherstone never really sell the reality of the situation convincingly. The other major failing of the film is it's plotting and pacing. Frankly it all feels a bit too ad hoc and make-shift for it's own good: characters appear and reappear to no discernible effect other than to ham-fistedly suggest a portentous air of ominous foreboding; scenes feel thrown in for the sake of expediency rather than narrative or character progression (the "let's conveniently leave the house so that the Ouija board can ignite" scene was, frankly, ridiculously contrived. Given Katie's repeatedly vocalised dislike of the board, wouldn't it have been far more effective - and believable in terms of the character - if she'd thrown it out as the couple were heading out of the house only to find that it had reappeared inside the house upon their return?); back-story which is set-up in the beginning is never elaborated upon to the point that one is mystified by it's inclusion and the twists and turns of the plot are strictly by the numbers.

So what are we left with at the end of the day? Well, largely, a film which feels like a series of warmed-over docuhorror clichés or a vastly inferior TV movie based on the haunting/possession methodology expounded upon in Gerald Brittle's book The Demonologist: The Extraordinary Career of Ed and Lorraine Warren (which, if you want to experience genuine chills, I recommend you pick up - hell, I'm a paranormal skeptic and an agnostic and yet it scared me so much when I first encountered it that I refused to read it after dark). Sure, the much applauded final scene is moderately effective, but even that when you look at it is merely just a combination of the famous "ghostcam" e-mail attachment, that did the rounds on the internet a few years ago, as well as scenes from "Ringu" and [Rec].

Ultimately "Paranormal Activity" is a film that doesn't live up the hype. It's worth the price of a rental if you can pick it up for a few bucks, but don't expect anything like the chill-fest that the critics rave about on the front cover.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on February 21, 2011
I am not sure why there are so many bad reviews on this film, but I think it is one of the most scariest and greatest of them all. To me, it is right up there with the Exorcist. And that is scary. I am a huge horror movie freak. None of them make me scared, but this made me pretty jumpy and shaky at the end of the film. I even had nightmares! Some people say it is slow moving. The second one was slow moving. Not this one. Like a normal horror movie, things were mild at the beginning. Door moving and some thudding noises but as each night went by, things got extreme after the boyfriend got the ouija board things started getting worse. Door slamming shut suddenly, the hall light would turn on for a few minutes then turn off. Un human demonic footprints appear in the powder they leave down one night. At some point a huge noise was heard from downtstairs and at that scene if you REALLY listen carefully, you can hear this slight distant groaning sound that sounds like Regan from The Exorcist. Then it got to the point when the girl was possessed by the demon. The ending was most likely the most scariest part. The girl (Katie). Katie stabbed herself with a small black cross. The boyfriend planned on them leaving but Katie refused saying it will be ok. By night, Katie gets up and stares at her boyfriend as he sleeps for 2 hours. Then she goes down stairs. You cannot see what is happening downstairs since it is recorded. But all of a sudden a loud blood curdling scream hit. That scream was so loud that I remember saying "What the heck is happing?!" over and over. And he ran down and you could hear a struggle when finally it went dead silent. Like as if you lost volume. Then you heard footsteps and suddenly the boyfriend's body was slammed up against the camera and Katie smiled demonicaly at the camarea and it went to black.
I think whoever doesn't get scared by this or thinks it is stupid or fake, is a real dead head. They aren't talking ghosts in this. They are talking demons. A real thing. I HIGHLY recomand buying this if you want to get scared. It is SO worth the money!!!!
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16 of 22 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon July 9, 2010
Ever since Paranormal Activity came out on Blu Ray back in December 2009 it has been in my Netflix queue. Netflix kept telling me that there was a "long wait" for this movie that was only getting average at best reviews. So everybody wants to see it, but it is being reviewed poorly? It must be better than everyone is saying, right? Maybe people are writing bad reviews because it really scared them and they don't want to admit it?

Well it finally arrived at my house this week, and after watching I have to join the average at best chorus. It's one of those "found footage handheld camera movies" that's actually pretty effective for its genre. There are some genuinely creepy moments and if you watch it alone late at night it's even more effective. But overall I thought it was unrealistic and too long even though the theatrical version comes in at under 90 minutes.

I think that it was Eddie Murphy in one of his early comedy routines that mocked the family in The Amityville Horror for staying in the house even though at one point in that movie a message from beyond cries out "GET OUT". A smart family would indeed get out! Well it's kinda the same in Paranormal Activity, except the concept is that the person is haunted versus the house. GET OUT...of the relationship then!

The biggest problem with Paranormal Activity is that it should have been a half hour long, but unfortunately the Tales from the Crypt-esque format for that doesn't really exist at the moment. But, kudos to first time Director Oren Peli for making a reported 200 million bucks on a reported 15 grand investment.

The movie has an R rating and I'm not sure why; there was really no gore and if there were bad words I don't recall anything above a PG-13 level. I understand that one of the alternate endings is a bit more gruesome than the theatrical version, so maybe that's it (I only watched the theatrical version).

No need to buy this movie. And if you're still waiting for Paranormal Activity from Netflix, unless you have nothing better, take it out of your queue and wait for cable. One thing's for sure, I won't have Paranormal Activity 2 on my to-do list.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on February 19, 2010
What's creepier than unseen things that go bump in the night? I live on the intersection of Nowhere and Too Late, quite a ways from the next neighbor. One calm, windless night, while working in our big garage around 3 a.m., I listened with a certain hair-raising thrill as the east sliding bay door made a repeated rapping sound. No wind, mind you, not a blade of grass stirring and the right bay door perfectly still and silent. I looked around and saw nothing.

Beats me what it was. Maybe a big spectral rat was digging under the sill plate. "Paranormal Activity" was this kind of movie, where you don't see the beastie, only its effects. The show was somewhat spooky, but truth be told, the "Blair Witch Project" stole its thunder. You knew this wasn't real, and there's something about "Activity's" setting in a modern, spacious house that just wasn't as chilling as being lost in the dark woods with some kind of supernatural critter on the loose.

Another truer note from "Blair Witch" was that the kids were trying to get away. The young couple in "Activity", however, particularly the moron boyfriend, insisted on staying in the house until the end. Sure, they were told that the demon would follow them. But I'd have burned rubber getting out of the house anyway, if only to shake the demon for a day or two.

On the other hand, although the boyfriend was pigheaded about staying, turning down help, and ultimately leading them to disaster, he did stick around when it was clear that the demon was only interested in his girlfriend. How many guys would care enough about their girlfriends to tell Beelzebub to take a hike?

The movie worked fairly well, then, but not extraordinarily so. The girl's being dragged out of bed by an invisible force was effectively scary, but both endings to the show were out of sync with the approach of the whole show previously. Especially the main ending, which made a sort of manifestation of the demon in an unlikely way.

What sticks with me is how eerily similar the noise the demon made when it was haunting the couple's bedroom to the sound long freight trains sometimes make out here, some five miles away, on a quiet summer's night. The same throbbing and muted rumbling you can hear through the walls. Time to exorcise some trains?
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on December 6, 2011
Another Blair Witch imitator, this time about demonic activity. You'd think this one would have a higher potential creep factor considering its setting is entirely the residence of its characters. There's no need to actually go anywhere to run into the horror, it just comes right into the home.

This film reuses many of the same set pieces of Blair Witch, but lacks that film's rich back story, so you get no sense of history. It does have a ham-fisted back story for one of its main characters that ties the activity to her, but it feels forced.

The concept is interesting and seems like it could have worked but there are several problems here. For one, the acting is weak, especially from the supporting cast. It feels like these are people who are trying to make a scary movie. There's just not much authenticity coming through the performances.

The film is also repetitive and not very imaginative. We get a generic demon. There isn't much here that you could not see on any number of "true ghost story" television programs. It's basically the movie version of one of those.

The demon does not seem to have much of an agenda either. When dealing with demons or ghosts you are implying an afterlife of some sort and that in itself sort of takes the sting out of death. These types of movies need a more spiritual basis to work right, some higher spiritual battle. There's nothing like that here. Seems like the demon just wants to kill people, like a serial killer with superpowers.

If you just want a roller-coaster with a few jumps and maybe some slight chills, this might work out as a one time viewing, if you are particularly susceptible to this kind of material. Just don't think about it too much.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon January 3, 2010
I was going to see this movie when it hit the theaters. I even participated in the Demand It promotion on the movie's website because in the beginning it wasn't showing in El Paso but it started showing in the city rather quickly but then I started reading the reviews on Yahoo movies and quickly changed my mind. I told myself that I rather wait until it came out on DVD because I knew based on the ratings it wouldn't stay in the theaters that long and let me TELL YOU...I'm so glad that I went with my gut feeling! The DVD wasn't completely terrible but it wasn't that great. I know the movie was made with about $12,000 but I thought it would at least be somewhat scary! The last 15 minutes was the scariest. I'm thinking that was the part that was shown in the previews! I'm so glad that I didn't waste my money and believe the hype! This movie was definitely over marketed and the consumers were robbed while the studio is laughing all the way to the bank! While watching the DVD, I definitely had to use my imagination because there wasn't anything scary but several creepy noises and loud bangs. The last 15 minutes was the creepiest. The movie could have been done in less than 30 minutes. There are no special features on the DVD. I'm giving it 3 stars for effort but seriously it doesn't even really deserve that! How are these people on Amazon giving this movie 5 stars? I also didn't understand how the movie got beyond a C- rating on Yahoo. I guess some people like watered down horror flicks or really don't get out much lol.

And one more thing....why is this movie rated R? It was more like watching a PG13 rating because of the language!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on March 8, 2013
A young woman has been haunted since she was eight years old by odd noises and shapes visiting her in the night. No matter where she moves the paranormal activity continues. Now an adult and living with her boyfriend the strange happenings have started up again. As a way to prove or disprove what is happening, her doubting boyfriend buys an expensive camera to set up and record their bedroom at night. The conceit of the movie is that all the footage you see is from their camera. It not only films while they are sleeping, the boyfriend carries it along during the day catching conversations, arguments and a visit from a psychic who tries to help. The phenomena escalates with the boyfriend deliberately provoking whatever is following his girlfriend because he does not believe in it.

I enjoyed the way the movie was made as "found footage" from the camera the couple used but they didn't do enough with it to make this a truly scary horror film. When you're showing two people sleeping you have a perfect set up to scare the audience with something suddenly happening but not much does for the first half of the movie. I understand they wanted the story to build to a climax but I was bored. The second half has a few creepy scenes although they telegraphed the ending so when it happened I wasn't surprised. This was an interesting concept for a movie however not enough was done to make it truly scary.
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