Paranormal Activity – Review

Paranormal Activity – Review

stephanie says:

i think i also found it hilarious they had sex 1 time in 20 days

Alana says:

i never thought about the rarity of their sex, but this is true

Two sentences. After giving it days of thought, for me, Paranormal Activity ends up coming down to two sentences in an MSN conversation that happened 4 days ago. At first glance it seems like a throwaway thought: why don’t these two characters have sex more than once? I mean I guess I could argue that they were busy, that they were more preoccupied with being terrorized by a demon, that they were concerned less with the physical aspects of a relationship and more with the emotional. But if I were to believe any of the reasons I’ve managed to come up with as an answer to this question I’d be stretching, and if I’m stretching something must have gone wrong in character development. But I’ll come back to this point soon.

Paranormal Activity had an amazing viral campaign. Opening in only a few theaters to begin with, the initial reaction of audiences led to a re-cutting of the trailer and a larger opening in the coming weeks. Written by Oren Peli, the film attempts a Blair Witch-style approach. The audience is supposed to believe that the events they are witnessing did in fact take place. The lack of credits and having all the scenes shot from one handheld camera helps create that effect. The characters keep their real names, Katie and Micah respectively and the rest of the cast is kept minimal. An unnamed psychic and two of Katie’s friends make up the other characters, but all three are seen sparingly[1]. The plot revolves around Katie who has been supposedly haunted by a demon since she was 8 years old. Micah, her jerk of a boyfriend, decides he is going to invest in a lot of equipment and catch the demon on tape. The only reason I can logically deduce that Micah wants to prod the demon into acting more and more violent towards the couple is because he has nothing better to do with his time. Apparently he is a day trader though I saw no evidence of him trading during the day at all. Ditto Katie, the English Literature student, who was more preoccupied with doing various crafts, than with actually studying any sort of literature. Were there even books in their home, I’m starting to wonder.

So back to the problem this movie ultimately faces and that has been hinted at throughout this review. The simple fact is neither of these characters are the least bit believable. Sure, there are relationships that suck and theirs certainly seems to be going that way, but they don’t even seem interested in each other as people. They are annoying. There, I’ve said it. These two characters, who you are forced to hang out with for 20 days, are not enjoyable people. They live in this amazing house that I was never convinced was theirs, they don’t ever seem to do any real work on their respective jobs, and they don’t have sex. Sure they hint at it, but they just don’t ever get around to humping each other. And that’s just something I can’t believe.

The Good

Imagined horror is usually more effective than what you are able to see. The fact that Paranormal Activity doesn’t rely on gore, torture, effects, or even a physical villain for scares is the only thing that saved the movie for me.  There are a few genuinely creepy moments and moments that produce the necessary shock required to induce an involuntary jump from me and hysterical screams from others in the theatre.

The premise of realism was also effective until it was ruined by a series of low hums/rumbles that would start up just before anything paranormal was about to begin. The couple made no comment on this noise and so the audience must consider the fact that it was added in from outside source, which of course takes away from the feeling that you are viewing something real.

The psychic was hands down the best person/event in the movie.

The Bad

The worst thing about this movie for me was its insistence on sidestepping logic. Ok, a demon has been haunting Katie since she was eight years old. We know that a) He follows her around but not at all times. Sometimes he leaves her alone for years at a time. b) He has secretly managed to hold onto a picture of her for all of these years to conveniently place in the attic of her new home at an opportune time. c) He used to haunt this chick named Diane who he wanted Micah to Google for no other reason to say: “Oh. He does this often. “

I guess this movie accomplished what it was set out to do, but it didn’t accomplish anything new in terms of horror films. We already have Cloverfield, Rec, Quarantine, The Blair Witch Project, Cannibal Holocaust, etc.

The Annoying

Why was this couple so annoying? I felt like I was watching my neighbours argue for 90 minutes, apart from the fact that my neighbours are so much more hardcore.  The in between haunting scenes are numerous and long and they all involve Katie whining and crafting and Micah being a persistent asshole. And after we watch the scenes that happened during the night (ahem, no sex) we are forced to watch them again with the annoying couple as they go over the tapes the next day.


[1] The IMDB page for Paranormal Activity lists a Crystal Cartwright as Exorcism Nanny (uncredited) as a character. I wish I knew more about this person.

About the Author

Steph & Alana often write reviews in tandem. Some say they share one mind.