Customer Reviews: Paranormal Activity
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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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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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on January 8, 2015
Oh fun! Oh I was one of those who voted for it to be screened in my city in South Texas. I went online, I got sucked into the hype and why not, it's fun and it was new and yes it's been done to death but so has The Fast and the Furious and dudes still get all puckered up about that so why can't fans of Paranomal Activity do the same? Is it accurate? I don't know, I've never had a demon follow me, at least not knowingly. How can anyone really rip apart a supernatural movie? It's really something that can't be proven so it's open to speculation and viewer interpretation and that's what made these films so successful.

The acting is superb for two uknowns. The director made a solid decision on choosing actors. Katie breaks the typical body mold and that's is great! She has a beautiful body and her charm and playful candor is what makes the sinister side of her all the more shocking. In all, for a movie that was shot in 7 days and on a what was it, 7K budget I think, geez, look at my review of As Above so Below, another found footage that kinda sucked on a huge budget.

Say what you want about Paranormal Activity and it's sequels but I think they're scary, they're fun and the mythos is really interesting. I'm looking forward to the new one in 3D and it's supposed to explain the time travel aspects and I'm looking forward to it. I haven't let the digital age spoil my fun. Movies still impress me, however great or small the effects. And if you're home alone with the lights off this movie will scare you. It's the kind of movie that will creep up on you when you're asleep and wake up for a glass of water and realize that you should have just remained asleep. I'll pay for that, over and over. That's what we're here for; to be scared and messed with !!!! This film does both. Watch it and keep watching. Have fun!!!
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on July 10, 2015
Paranormal Activity is a found footage horror flick that follows the story about a couple who move into their new house but are suddenly terrorized by a dreadful supernatural force. Paranormal Activity is one of those movies that you'll either love or hate. The movie was a cult phenomenon and terrified audiences back in 2009. As for reviewers, like myself, and critics alike, the opinions towards this movie is very divided. Because it's a found footage movie, mixed reactions will definitely be the end result. Paranormal Activity, for me anyway, I thought it was good. On one hand, the movie is well-made, I like how there is no background music and that it's all very quiet. To me, that gave me a very relentless and realistic feel and some of the scares and the atmosphere are effective because if it. The movie does have some irritating jump scares but not a lot to make me annoyed. The big flaw the movie suffers from that did bug me about the movie is that the characters are not that well developed and as a result, I don't really feel anything for the characters. Overall, Paranormal Activity is a good movie to watch if you are in the mood for an entertaining and relatively creepy experience!
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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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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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on April 2, 2016
This movie was a bit of a yawn for me. Most of the spookiest stuff had way too many indicators leading up to it, so hardly anything that happened really caught the viewer by surprise. There were countless opportunities to truly startle and scare the viewer and they blew almost every single one. Definitely not interested in watching the rest of the series.
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on May 3, 2013
Since there's so much hype about this movie, I decided to finally buy and watch it. I thought it was for the most part creepy at times. A lot of suspense building up to the end of the movie. That's where I thought it could of been better. The ending didn't 'wow' me like i thought it would. If the movie was more shocking overall, it may have been a classic..
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on December 4, 2015
A fresh take on what was still a fairly new genre after The Blair Witch Project. This is fairly standard fare for the horror genre, but is well done, and holds the suspension of disbelief quite well. This is more about suspense and realism than about slasher, gore and special effects. Highly recommended as part of your regular Halloween rotation.
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on May 20, 2014 get started, and there was considerable repetition. Near the end, the "F" word started getting used far too often and for no justifiable reason. Overall, there were some decent scary scenes, but the ending was lackluster.
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