Review: Paranormal Activity


At the time, Variety described writer-director Oren Peli's micro-budgeted horror feature as "one of the best genre spins on the pseudo-nonfiction first-person-cam since 'The Blair Witch Project.' " But "Paranormal's" path to commercial release has been a laborious one: Initially, DreamWorks intended to simply use it as a DVD extra for a bigger-budgeted remake it signed Peli to create. When that fell through, the pic shifted to Paramount's shelf.


Nearly two years later, Paramount is taking the unusual approach of launching it via free midnight screenings in various metropolitan and college markets, encouraging viewers to urge wider bookings via online service Demand. This simple yet hair-raising enterprise, reworked somewhat (most notably with a new ending) since its festival premiere, could definitely parlay word of mouth into sleeper success.


Trimmed from 96 to 85 minutes, the pic now gets to the scary stuff faster, without sacrificing the credibility of unremarkable San Diego couple Micah (Micah Sloat) and Katie's (Katie Featherston) incredulous attempts to deal with a hostile unseen force in their home. Initially skeptical, Micah bullishly determines he'll "take care of" the problem himself; a technophile, he insists on using video cameras to record any phenomena, even though a psychic consulted says opening any channels of communication with a demonic presence is a very bad idea.


Which indeed it proves. "Activity's" dominating key scenes are a series of nighttime bedroom surveillance-cam sequences whose eerie quiet and progressively more alarming manifestations had the audience at a San Francisco midnight screening nervously laughing, clapping and screaming throughout. "Paranormal" is a great audience experience -- watched on the smallscreen, it would lose not only the collective thrill feel, but its subtler chilling effects (a faint shadow on a door, etc.) might be lost entirely.


Peli's original ending wasn't as terrifying as much of what came before, but delivered a cruelly ironic final twist. A new, more fantastical finish goes for a couple of jolts that are perhaps more genre-conventional. Still, they certainly do the trick.


Transfer to 35mm looks great, which is to say crisply convincing as high-end homemovies. Sound mix seems spruced up a bit; the things going bump in the night now do so with stereo gravitas.


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Oct 10, 2009 10:58PM EDT

This movie was boring all the way until the end. As soon as it started to get good it was over. Not the scariest movie of the decade as they claim. If you have never seen any other horror movie ever this may scare you; otherwise, you may want to wait for the dvd.

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Oct 25, 2009 6:23PM EDT

I disagree with christa. This movie did what most horror movies fail to do lately which was keep me on the edge of my seat throughout the whole movie. The most terrifying scene for me was when she was dragged out of the room by her foot. Seeing movies like Saw, Halloween, Sorority Row, or Final Destination, which are supposed to "scare" me, end up making me laugh more than they scare me. Granted this wasn't EXTREMELY scary and was a little over-hyped but it took me a while to get to sleep last night after seeing the movie and that, to me, makes it a good movie.

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Oct 25, 2009 7:24PM EDT

This is what horror movies should be like, not zombies and gore.

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Apr 2, 2010 3:32PM EDT


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