Movie Review – Paranormal Activity

Genre: Horror/Thriller

Director: Oren Peli

Writer: Oren Peli

Starring: Katie Featherston, Micah Sloat, Mark Fredrichs, Ashley Palmer, Amber Armstrong

Warning: Some Spoilers

Capitalizing on people’s fascination with the paranormal and our innate fear of the unknown, Paranormal Activity has recently taken movie theaters by storm. The $15,000.00 independent movie opened to limited release. Making the most of their marketing dollars, the distributors gave people the power to drive the movie to unexpected financial success. As more people saw Paranormal Activity and spread the word, people visited the official movie website in droves to “Demand It” and the movie quickly gained screen time at additional theaters across the country.

Personally, I was excited to see this movie as soon as I first heard about it. Being regaled as the next Blair Witch Project, I was intrigued. Soon enough, just about everyone I know was talking about it. I heard mixed reviews from the early audiences. Some people found the movie long and dull. Others didn’t mind the length and found the experience worth it for the final 30 minutes.  While others simply exclaimed, “You have to see Paranormal Activity!”

Finally, I found myself in a nearly empty theater (thanks to Twilight: New Moon) at a 12:35am screening. As I said, I was intrigued, but also skeptical. Let’s face it, there has been a lot of hype about this movie. The more press a movie gets, the lower my expectations. Honestly, I expected to be bored. Paranormal Activity wasn’t a bore, but it was no thriller either.

The story is simple: a young couple videotapes their paranormal experiences as a malevolent entity terrorizes them. From the moment the movie began the acting screamed drama class exercise. Between Micah’s desire to handle the situation himself as a stereotypical “tough guy,”  and Katie as the terrified student who cries without shedding a tear, the performances are far from Oscar worthy. Even the performances from the small supporting cast come across as forced. One can overlook the acting.

As the movie progresses, we see the experiences build in intensity from just a bump in the night to more tangible experiences, finally into demonic possession. The effects aren’t great (remember that small budget), but they were done well. What Paranormal Activity gets right is the suspense. There weren’t any terrifying moments, and nothing really to make you jump out of your seat. However, I won’t deny there were times when I got a chill and I thought twice about that noise in the night. Nonetheless, Paranormal Activity draws you into the experience and you find yourself relating to both Katie and Micah – Katie for her desire to be rid of this entity that has followed her through life, and Micah for his uncontrollable desire to document more tangible experiences. Let’s face it, most of us would like to have our own paranormal experiences and some seek out opportunities to commune with other-worldly entities.

Paranormal Activity truly is today’s Blair Witch Project. I think of it as a very low-budget Poltergeist. Either way, I am glad I saw the movie and I would recommend everyone see it. However, once is enough. There isn’t enough substance here to warrant multiple viewings. Paranormal Activity won’t translate well to home viewing on the small screen, so it is worth it to get to the theater.