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Film Review - Paranormal Activity

PARANORMAL ACTIVITY still

While sitting on the shelf for quite some time now, Paramount Pictures recently figured out a way to properly sell the $11,000 chiller, “Paranormal Activity.” Playing up the film’s haunted house aspect and psychological grip on select members of test audiences, the studio is raring to fashion a fresh “Blair Witch Project” moviegoing event, to build something extraordinary out of an exceedingly modest motion picture. I’m not suggesting “Activity” isn’t effective, but those purchasing a ticket would be well advised to bring expectations down to a dull roar, allowing the movie a fighting chance to frighten.

Micah (Micah Sloat) and Katie (Katie Featherston) are an ordinary couple facing an extraordinary situation. Fearing their house is haunted, the pair purchases a video camera, looking to tape their sleeping hours to capture whatever ghostly entity is in the area. As the days tick by and experts weigh in on their situation, Micah and Katie grow frustrated with the lack of results, only finding fragments of activity on the playback. However, the mysterious noises and swaying doors soon add up, terrifying the couple and putting severe stress on their relationship.

Presented as an assembly of found footage from the local police, “Activity” is the story of a haunting as captured by the haunted. The video is crude hand-held material, depicting the domestic intimacy of the couple between the spurts of terror. They flirt and whine, playing for the camera in a manner that expresses pre-marital comfort, but Micah and Katie are growing increasingly distressed, and the camera monitors their every twitch of fear.

PARANORMAL ACTIVITY still 2

“Activity” is a sensorial experience, not a dramatic one. The performances from the two leads reveal a distinct amateur tone that shatters the illusion of reality, especially Featherston, who’s trying hard to articulate her sensations of alarm, making the performance woefully artificial. Since the entire experience of “Activity” hinges on spending time with the couple, their blasé reading of terror disappoints, and worse, aggravates, making for a glacial 90+ minute sit. For a film already at the lower end of professional polish, the acting makes the whole shebang feel like a community theater rehearsal. I was half-expecting Corky St. Clair to show up as a spirit.

Messing around with Ouija boards, demonology experts, attic investigation, and featuring a plethora of spooky sound effects, “Activity” hits a few highlights of suspense. The stark, homemade quality of the film helps to encourage a creepy atmosphere of the unknown during the sleeping footage, and there are plenty of jolts to keep viewers on edge, but only for a short amount of time. Director Oren Peli doesn’t tighten the noose quickly enough, leaving much of the film a slow burn to nowhere. Events do intensify in the final act, but it’s a long haul to get to the good stuff. Truthfully, “Activity” would’ve made a cracking short film, with all the obvious pauses removed for a more streamlined and effective viewing experience.

Refreshingly, something is actually after Micah and (specifically) Katie, keeping the feature from becoming a shameless tease. It’s a neat concept, but “Paranormal Activity” only contains a few effective sequences, making all the heavy breathing, bickering, and weeping something of a chore to endure.


C



PARANORMAL ACTIVITY

Comments

Randall Micks

Dude, I just got back from this moovie and it suuuuuuuucked.

I want to strangle everyone who said this was scary. I was so bored, yo!

Good review, dude. I wish I didn't see this turd.

Rachel

Saw this tonight and every nasty commenter on rotten tomatoes owes you a big apology. gawd this movie is terrible. I wasnt scared at all! I wanted to laugh during it, but my friend said she would kick me if I laughed.

Boston Baked Ben

Lousy. Fucking. Picture.

Man I wish I read this review before I stood in line for three hours to see this piece of shit.

Coppola's Anus

What?

That was it?

That's the scariest film of the year?

What a joke.


Booooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooorrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrriiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiinnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggg.

Mr. B's Hall

Crap movie. CRAP.

I waited in a long line too and I wish I could've spent that time staring at a wall.

Cherry B

Loved this review. Mirrored by thoughts exactly.

Steph

Thanks for posting this review. I absolutely love horror films even if truly good ones are few and far in between. I went to the screening last night, excited by the 100% rating on rottentomatoes.com. But I was utterly bored for the first hour and unimpressed for the rest. This sentence describes how I feel exactly.

"[...]their blasé reading of terror disappoints, and worse, aggravates, making for a glacial 90+ minute sit [...] Director Oren Peli doesn’t tighten the noose quickly enough, leaving much of the film a slow burn to nowhere. Events do intensify in the final act, but it’s a long haul to get to the good stuff."

I think it's a respectable film, but can't live up to the hype and praise--especially with that cheap-shot ending.

Aaron R

Saw it last night at the Arclight. Screen 7, downstairs. Enjoyed the free popcorn, wasn't thrilled with the film. It got laughs from the audience in all the wrong places. Not worth four hours in line. Or worth the hour and $9.50 it took me to get out of the parking garage.

SPOILER FOLLOWS:
The dragging scene was pretty cool, though. For the budget it had, it's interesting in an anthropological sense. It won't go wide. Buzz will kill it.

Jane Realiton

You are absolutely insane and asinine. This is one of the greatest horror films of all time. What's the matter with you? Are you really that unsophisticated in your taste. Stop reviewing movies, PLEASE.

Richard Johnson

I've read the hate on Rotten Tomatoes and I wanted to pass along that I think you've written the most accurate review of the movie.

It's a silly film with no scares. It's a movie for people like the commentor before me, Jane Realiton, who have no life and don't know anything about making movies or seeing them.

Thank you for this review. The Rotten Tomatoes community is a bunch of frustrated virgins who can't spell or throw together a decent putdown. They suck.

Aaron

I just want to ask one thing to all the posters here: If you're into horror, and hated this movie, then what the hell is there left to watch? Please don't tell me you get your scare fix from Hollywood pictures, who wouldn't know how to not make a remake if their lives depended on it.

I'm in agreement that this movie didn't live up to the hype, but it was clearly scarier than anything in multiplexes this year. What it managed to pull off for $15,000 is impressive, and more than mainstream pictures can pull off for millions. You can't buy scares, that's for sure.

All I'm saying is, even if you hated it, at least respect it. Indie films (for the most part) at least have vision and creativity, even if they don't have the budget to match. I'd rather have one "Paranormal" for a thousand "Pandorums", or "Sorority Rows", or "Saw 12's" anyday.

Lionel Hutz

There's one thing I would like to ask everyone. If the movie costs only $15,000 to make, why would I pay full-price (up to $16.00 in some areas) to watch it when a ticket to a multi-million dollar movie costs the same thing? I won't be "bamboozled". Bring the ticket prices down accordingly and then I will pay to see it. There's plenty of scary amateur video on U-Tube and that's free.

Daniel Pyun

It's interesting to see critics and audiences reviewing the budget, not the movie.

Who cares how much it cost? Doesn't change the face that the acting stinks and there are no scares in the film.

Swallows of Capistrano

Paranormal Activity is the worst film of the year. I spent three hours waiting in line to see the film (like everyone else it seems) and could not believe what a piece of shit it was.

Paramount deserves the gold medal of marketing for suckering people into this steaming pile. I've never seen a worse horror film. No suspense at all.

Burnett G.

I think the negative reviews are coming from people who are expecting a little too much from a low budget, amateur, supernatural horror/thriller.

It was fantastic for what it was.

Ryan Reardon

I came here because of all the vitriol on Rotten Tomatoes, and I see you only gave the film a C rating.

A C rating. All the nonsense over there from the poo-flingers for a C rating.

You know what, dorks, ITS A C MOVIE. The acting is attrocious and there are no scares. Spend 11 thousand or 100 million, a shitty director is a shitty director. Can't fight non talent.

Paranormal Activity blows. The truth hurts.

Mr. Karen

I didn't like this movie. Thanks for the honest review.

Brodie

"It was fantastic for what it was."

Wrong! Unless you mean it was intended to be boring and scareless. Then yes it accomplished its goal.

Mario

As i watched the crowd around me slowly reduce to unintentional laughter i realized that this film is worthless and not scary at all.

too bad so many people feel that they have to denfend it without seeing it. ive seen it and its lousy.

nil

I have to agree w/ Aaron (see post below). If the acting/directing and editing is to blame that can be fixed with more $$$. I hope hollywood decides to hitch on to this idea and does a few flicks like this.
**********************
Aaron: I just want to ask one thing to all the posters here: If you're into horror, and hated this movie, then what the hell is there left to watch? Please don't tell me you get your scare fix from Hollywood pictures, who wouldn't know how to not make a remake if their lives depended on it.

I'm in agreement that this movie didn't live up to the hype, but it was clearly scarier than anything in multiplexes this year. What it managed to pull off for $15,000 is impressive, and more than mainstream pictures can pull off for millions. You can't buy scares, that's for sure.

All I'm saying is, even if you hated it, at least respect it. Indie films (for the most part) at least have vision and creativity, even if they don't have the budget to match. I'd rather have one "Paranormal" for a thousand "Pandorums", or "Sorority Rows", or "Saw 12's" anyday.

Alexandra

Some of my favorite movie-going experiences have been at horror flicks. Everyone gets nervous together, everyone jumps together and everyone laughs all bashful-like with each other. It's great, even if a movie blows. But there is a caveat, there is always a caveat. For every four people enjoying the movie in a realistic fashion, there is some cynic focusing too much on the idiosyncrasies. Fine enough, except your little macho-intellectual amalgam act is a piss-poor way of telling all of your friends that you are incapable of relaxing. How can you knock a movie for being "not-scary-enough" when it seems you can't even get over your fear of sincerity?

You don't have to like a scary movie for it to be scary and if you find yourself in the extreme minority, there is a reason. These are the people who have a thousand modifiers for their fast food orders. These are the people who love to start fires by saying things like, "Yeah, I guess it was alright but I really just don't see what the big deal is."

Sweetheart, there is a lot you can't see.

Richard Muverhn

"For every four people enjoying the movie in a realistic fashion, there is some cynic focusing too much on the idiosyncrasies."

Really? You're posting this on a film critic site? That's kinda the point of the job, sir.

"How can you knock a movie for being "not-scary-enough" when it seems you can't even get over your fear of sincerity?"

Really? On the same front page where Brian slobbers all over Trick r Treat and practically gave oral sex to Drag Me to Hell?

What a fucking lame post. Talk about missing the point. Maybe this is why you fell for the BS that is Paranormal Activity.

Cherry B

Alexandra: someone who wants film critics to not do their job when it interferes with her personal opinion.

Absurd.

Bopper

Spent a full week trying to get tickets to the movie.

Saw the movie.

Wish I had that week of my life back.

Maegan mcLorry

Thank you Brian for being the smartest review on Rotten Tomatoes. You reviewed the movie, not the reaction of some teenage girl sitting next to you.

It's brave and this review is correct from start to finish.

Don't let the haters bug you. You wrote the most accurate review around.

neil

i liked the movie along with everyone else in the theater it seemed. not everyone is going to like the movie, but i think the majority do and thats whats going to help it get into wide release soon

could the acting/directing have been better? sure, but im not a critic. i didnt find myself thinking about the acting/directing, so i guess it was good enough.

were there too many dull moments?
there were a few, but then again they spent 11k for 99 minutes.

i think most people are just mad they got baited into spending $10 expecting to see "the greatest horror movie of all time"...i'd be pissed if i was dumb enough to buy that too

Kyra moon

As soon as I heard "Blair witch" I know that there is no way I would like this movie. I'm still trying to figure out why that was so popular. No amount of booze or smokes could make it better. Believe me I tried. I might watch it if it's streaming on netflix at someone elses house but I probably won't seek it out on my own. I'm sure that it will be loved by the same masses that loved Blair witch and the exorcist but give me a psycological thriller any day. In our minds is where the true fear resides. BTW ghosts even angry ones are not that scary, speaking from experience. More annoying than anything.

wholmes17

You all just want your big budget fake blood filled "scares". This is the scariest movie I've ever seen. Do u not know how to put yourself in their position? The fact that you know they are doomed is terrifying. This demon is stalking this girl and the fact that he's finally making real contact with her is truly creepy imo. And yes, people need to learn to shut up in a movie theatre. its quite sad how some people are. No respect.

jackson

I don't care if this cost 1 dollar, good storytelling comes from good filmmakers.

This movie is bad. Plain and simple. Nobody can act and there are no scares.

James

I liked it. I wouldnt say 'scary'...(lets be honest, If you an adult and get 'scared' at movies...well, I dont know what to say), but it was creepy and did a good job of showing a creepy story.
I think it is because everything is so ordinary, like it could so easily be your house with little imagination, at the same time leaving you imagination to run wild.

One of the big problems with a lot of horror movies is that the situations are too extraordinary. When you lie down for bed the chances of a zombie infestation or the antichrist showing up isnt going to seem to likely...however...the door might move a little or you might hear a sound in the kitchen. And that is why I found the movie effective, the simplicity.

It was filmed in a way that made you feel dread. Every time they went to bed and the cam was rolling, you felt like ‘Man, what next?’..you know something is going to happen..something creepy…but what? Till towards the end the tension becomes hard to take. Its a good job, when I film can effect you by your emotions, and I think it did that.
Like I said...you arent going to get 'scares'...because we are grown ups, but you can make a creepy movie that will give the viewer something to think about while they are falling asleep.

I like horror movies that turn very ordinary situations and places into something of terror. I also like that it made my girlfriend scared to go to sleep last night (BTW, she did not find it funny when I recorded myself whispering ‘get out’ on my cell phone, hid it under her pillow, and set it to go off at 1am).

If you liked movies like 'Open Water', I think you'd dig this.

Curt

I get the feeling all the comments here are negative simply because the people who didn't like it gravitated, as apparent from the comments, to the site from Rottentomatoes that gave a poor review. As many say, you're entitled to your own opinion of what's good and what's not, but these opinions are slightly skewed one way. I thought it was phenomenal. I thought the acting was natural. I thought the dread built steadily. And, although this means nothing at all, I think the vast majority of people who watch it think and will think the same. And I agree with wholmes17. I think it's a lack of imagination on people's part that they aren't able to sympathize and think how it would feel if it was happening to them, that makes them not like this.

Scott

As I watched this movie in my college town, I witnessed many students peaking through their sweatshirts. I was in awe when the slightest effect, chicken feet, shadows, etc. would scare a good portion of the audience, which oddly was made up of sorority girls and one guy that insisted on commentating throughout the movie. Ill agree that this film was mildly creepy, but the only thing worth watch was the last 10 minutes.

www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=718585946

Then let me ask you this... what the hell do you want in a scary movie? If you sat through this movie trying not to laugh, go see a fucking romantic comedy. This movie was the first 'scary' movie since the 6th sense for me. Everyone has their own preferences, but the people who weren't entertained by this movie to say the least, shouldn't bother going to see another scary movie again. Being able to put yourself in place of the actors is the only way to bring that fear into the equation. Otherwise, its another "grudge" or "ring". Because let's face it, gore is not scary. Relative reality is scary. This movie should be a huge wake up call for the genre and for producers like dark castle, etc.

Angela Andrade

You guys are dumb if you think this movie sucked! it was awesome and it was scary, it had me on the edge of my seat!!!

Best horror movie of the year!!!

Martin Scorsese

I agree with the review. horrible movie. This could be the single reason why Rotten Tomatoes cannot be trusted. the sad thing is that Micah is the cousin of my best friend. He is actually that much of a douchbag in real life as well, but the sad thing is he couldn't even act as himself. Come on people, are you trying to tell me he is going to scream like a little girl in fear and then the next day refuse to leave! "This is my house and my girlfriend!" And this was written in a script, sad. how does this make any sense. At least the actors in Blair witch took it seriously, Micah seems like he is mocking the audience with his "master plan" of putting powder on the floor. COME ON! I'm glad I didn't pay for this trash. I hope this movie fails just as fast by word of mouth as it was over hyped the same way.

Let me remind you fools that boxoffice numbers reflect what is most popular with 12 year olds. Think about it, every #1 movie is usually pure crap: ie; Norbit, Indiana Jones 4, all those Tyler Perry movies, Twilight...do I really need to go on. It's the same with Music and food. Britney Spears and McDonalds dominate their markets. Who cares if it was cheap to make and its making a profit? If it smells like crap, and it tastes like crap...you can fill in the rest.

Marc-Alexandre Duchesne

I had very high expectations (something I usually try to avoid because you end up disappointed 90% of the time) for this movie and I wasn't disappointed at all! It's awesome! I've seen over 1000 horror movies and Paranormal Activity is definitely one of the best I've seen (top 50)! It's not one of the best I've seen only because it's one of the scariest, it's also one of the most realistic and it's the movie I've always dreamed of! I've always wanted someone to make a realistic movie like The Blair Witch Project about a family or a couple filming in their house to catch ghosts and this movie has everything that I wanted! It's very suspenseful and it has some truly effective scenes! A lot of people say that it's boring and I really don't get it! It's WAY too suspenseful to be boring! I've been trying to understand why the people that thought that it was boring went to see it since it was released! Why does someone who get bored easily go see a movie about a couple filming in their house? While we're at it, why does someone expect to be scared in a theater full of people? The fact that there are idiotic teens that can't stop talking and laughing 90% of the time doesn't help. Personally, I can't imagine finding a movie scary with 30 persons around me. I thought the movie was scary (compared to most movies), but I watched it alone in the dark with an headset. The fact that I believe (or want to) in ghosts/demons helped as well. Actually, I can't imagine someone who doesn't believe in ghosts/demons finding a movie about them scary. What makes ghost/demons movies scary is the fact that maybe they exist. Anyway, the first few minutes of the movie is the only time I didn't feel uneasy! The atmosphere was simply creepy! Hell, even a few parts with nothing but the couple talking were creepy! I guess it was the expectation that something really bad was going to happen. Anyway, when the movie was about to end I felt bad because I really didn't want it to end and any movie that makes me feel this way deserves 5 stars. I Can't wait for the DVD.

PS: All of the people who call the people who like this movie sheeps are immature idiots. Just because you think a movie is bad doesn't mean that those who think it's good are sheeps or wrong or whatever stupid *beep* bigots love to come up with.

Jazz

After seeing all of these hyped up commercials about this movie i was excited to see it. i am deathly afraid of scary movies. i saw this and was extremely disappointed,i was more afraid of the movie Coraline...SAD! but other than that they did a great job making a lot of money. this movie cost them..? $ 7,000,or something like that nicely done! Other than that the movie set up was terrible, there was a beginning and then everything happened at the end.. i fell asleep during the movie. This movie was terrible it was definitely not what it was hyped up to be. EXTREMELY DISAPPOINTED.

darren

This critic speaks the truth. He was generous. The film was far worse. I saw this by myself one Sunday night, not knowing much about it. I remember being appalled by the acting-all three characters. The clairvoyant being the worst. The script, or improvisation was unconvincing and the words they chose were not genuine. They kept repeating their sentences, and that smacked of falseness. I'm surprised this "director" couldn't find better actors among his friends. (That tells you something right there. Talent associates with talent.)

The most offensive part of this film was that the couple rarely turned the lights on when being assaulted by this "demon." The girl already said she didn't want to be a part of this video filming, yet after the ghost scares her to the point of terror, she doesn't turn a light on. This is never explained. Then, when the demon starts to do stuff during the daylight, they still don't turn the lights on. So the director can't say use the excuse that the couple thought the ghost hates light. The movie was using this no lights thing as a cliche manipulation.

This film was not scary. If the false hype about people leaving the theater were true, then they left the theater because it was awful. I almost walked out myself. At one point I actually let out a loud yawn and people around me laughed.

And can someone explain to me the ending. It was unclear. It pissed me off. You never know what actually happened. She just had blood on her shirt and she threw him at the camera. What exactly were we to get from that. I don't believe it for a moment when the ads were saying people were leaving in droves because of fear. That was a total lie. You wouldn't even think of leaving. THERE WERE NO SCARES. I was so bored. I tried to like this, but couldn't. And then when I thought the house was going to burn because of the ouiji board, it didn't. The fire just went out, with the help of a flimsy edit.

Expect a trend in this kind of youtube video thing. It means the studios pay NOTHING for making the film, and rake in the profits. The shocking thing is that the amateur overrated filmmakers will vastly share in these profits as well. But what else is new?

What is REALLY scary is the hate mail that comes in to critics that don't like the haters precious film. I don't understand this. I am starting to think that some of this is fake, and that rotten tomatoes actually removes the bad reviews if they accept money from the studios. How could this film actually have gotten 84 percent? 84 percent of the reviews RT chooses. It's all a scam.

Thank god for reviewers that write the truth. The film was bad due to the acting and script and insulting situations, as well as the fact that there were just very few, if any, scares.

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