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Overall Rating

Awesome: 14.29%
Worth A Look50%
Average: 14.29%
Pretty Bad: 2.86%
Total Crap: 18.57%

5 reviews, 40 user ratings

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Paranormal Activity
[] Buy posters from this movie
by Abhishek Bandekar

"As Paranormal as Paranormal can be!"
4 stars

The capacity to scare an audience is perhaps the basest, and yet the most supreme, of cinema’s slow and sure march towards destroying the proverbial fourth wall. After all, to be able to make people collectively clutch at their arm-rests in a mass-induced state of fear and frenzy is the zenith of any filmmaking stimulus- beyond the pangs of emotion brought about by gut-wrenching dramas and comedy-induced cathartic laughter. In that sense, horror films are to mainstream movies what pornography is to the visual medium- aiming directly for arousal. Pornography is unfortunately an easily abused word; but to the 21st century it is a culturally defining term. Just as we wonder what can titillate us in an age where we see exposed bodies all around us, what can really scare us when cinema has captured everything from decapitations and mutilations in the name of thrills and horror? Still, Oren Peli’s Paranormal Activity manages to scare the bejesus out of you…and that too minus any gore!

The story of Paranormal Activity is an extremely simple one. Young couple Micah (Sloat) and Katie (Featherston) move into a suburban San Diego house. She begins to hear strange sounds at nights; and he comes up with an idea to keep a camera running in their bedroom, hoping to record paranormal footage, if any. That is about it for story then. But the proof of this cinematic pudding is in Peli’s cinema-vérité approach in the telling. Like 1999’s The Blair Witch Project, which this film is undoubtedly inspired by, Peli presents the happenings in the house as recovered personal video footage. In the times of YouTube and MMS, Peli’s video-footage ploy lends the film immediacy and also acts as a reminder of just how much technology has intruded our daily lives. Micah’s over-exuberance in capturing the paranormal activity threatens to damage his relationship with Katie. After one scary incident, Katie can’t believe that Micah actually went back to fetch his camera!

When the lights go out and the couple resigns to bed, we see via Micah’s recorder on the tripod the events that transpire as they sleep. This is very unsettling because the almost voyeuristic nature of this ‘watching’ at once privileges and incriminates your position as an audience. It privileges because what you are seeing is recorded footage that has already happened, so the threat is distant; but it incriminates because you actually look forward to the nights and wait and watch as the couple sleeps, hoping for something really ‘evil’ to take place.

Peli’s biggest triumph then is in trusting the primal phobias and fears of his audience. There are no moviemaking trappings here. There is no background score to ratchet up the tension…no clever cinematography orchestrated to a ‘boo’ end. There are no fast cuts… no scary ghosts to make you jump out of your seats, darn it! There is instead a dreadfully escalating anticipation and a tapping into everyday templates like an empty hallway, stairs and the attic. By the end of the film you’ve grown familiar to the bedroom, and like a conditioned Pavlovian subject stuck in the couple’s daily routine of going to bed you scrutinize every shadow and every creak of a door.

Like the pioneering master of thrills Alfred Hitchcock, Peli plays more with suspense than shock. Which is why when the shock does arrive eventually, it is sure to scare you in a way you’ve never been scared before at the movies.

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originally posted: 03/27/10 01:31:09
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Trilogy Starters: For more in the Trilogy Starters series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2008 Slamdance Film Festival For more in the 2008 Slamdance Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: Fantastic Fest 2009 For more in the Fantastic Fest 2009 series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2009 Chicago International Film Festival For more in the 2009 Chicago International Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

9/14/17 morris campbell scary as hell not 4 gorehounds &ADD folks wont like it 4 stars
8/19/14 el culo how did i get to this ugly looking website? 1 stars
8/27/12 David Pollastrini One of the better "found footage" films 4 stars
7/18/11 Flipsider Good concept... terrible script with unlikable characters. LAME ending. Not recommended. 1 stars
2/09/11 ES I watched both endings, the more high tech of the two is def the one I'd have gone with. 4 stars
11/24/10 mr.mike It accomplishes its mission. Plenty of scares. 4 stars
11/15/10 ALICE been waiting a long time for a movie that can still scare the * out of me ! 5 stars
10/10/10 Ace-of-Stars A bit overhyped. Not bad, but nothing astounding either. Good for one sit-thru. 3 stars
6/03/10 User Name It's no masterpiece, but it does what it sets out to do: scare the bejesus out of you. 3 stars
6/03/10 Shane Callanan Incredibly scary!!! 5 stars
3/28/10 Mike Much Scarier stuff on A&E's "Ghost Hunters" - this belongs on YouTube 1 stars
3/03/10 Stanley Thai It effectively strips the securities of sleeping in your bedroom. 4 stars
3/03/10 engelheart big waste of time..sucked 1 stars
2/02/10 Roxanne Childers I'm 51 years old and had to sleep with the nite-lite on. 4 stars
1/14/10 Charles Tatum Just enough chills- and Featherston is a hottie 4 stars
12/04/09 Roy Oak Liked a lot but more than half the audience that saw with me didn't understanded and laughe 4 stars
11/28/09 Nick Awesome Movie. Got me scared chicken. Took 10 years for a film to do that again. 5 stars
11/26/09 Artemis B Gone Blair Witch was great. This film was total and complete garbage. 1 stars
11/11/09 Kim waited and waited to be scared out of my wits just didn't happen felt I wasted my money 1 stars
11/06/09 jamsl i wasted my money sad face 1 stars
11/04/09 dude scariest movie ever 5 stars
11/03/09 shell waste of time and money 1 stars
11/01/09 Jake Pack Worst Movie Ever Made In History! no joke! 1 stars
10/28/09 Bob Masterpiece! Not for hyperactive idiots though. 5 stars
10/28/09 David A. A lot of it is corny and campy, but there are a couple of places where it makes you jump. 3 stars
10/28/09 Devin This movie was DISAPPOINTING. It was HORRIBLE. 1 stars
10/26/09 MAD You walked out before the best parts. What an idiot. 5 stars
10/26/09 Scottie AWFUL MOVIE. We walked out after 1 hour 1 stars
10/25/09 matt not bad, but not perfect 4 stars
10/23/09 Man Out 6 Bucks While you paid for this crap, crew partied w/your $ on Pacific Beach 1 stars
10/22/09 damalc good suspenseful buildup with no payoff. main characters were in bed for 1/3 of movie. 3 stars
10/20/09 Bnorm The person i went with cried at the end of this movie. its ridiculous 5 stars
10/20/09 NA It so freaked me out I can't stop thinking about it 5 stars
10/18/09 Chad Dillon Cooper A Blair witch type movie with a re-filmed Hollywood Hostess twinke ending 2 stars
10/17/09 action movie fan demon stalks woman and loer in this frightful film-very memorable 4 stars
10/16/09 B solid horror flick 4 stars
10/12/09 steve terrible 1 stars
10/12/09 Obi Wan Scariest movie I've ever seen! 5 stars
6/09/09 Debbie Girard, The scariest movie I have ever seen. It is smart, not gore. 5 stars
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  25-Sep-2009 (R)
  DVD: 29-Dec-2009


  DVD: 29-Dec-2009

Directed by
  Oren Peli

Written by
  Oren Peli

  Micah Sloat
  Katie Featherston

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