Paranormal Activity (2007)

Paranormal Activity (2007)
  • Time: 86 min
  • Genre: Horror | Mystery
  • Director: Oren Peli
  • Cast: Micah Sloat, Katie Featherston, Amber Armstrong


Katie and her boyfriend Micah have been living together for three years and out of the blue, they are haunted by an entity while they are sleeping. Katie discloses to Micah that she has been haunted since she was eight year-old. The skeptical Micah buys a camera to videotape the paranormal activity in their home during the night. Katie calls Fredrichs, to help them, but he explains that he is specialist in ghosts. However he feels the presence of a fiend and advises the couple to call a friend of his.


  • Riding the coattails of such hand held/shaky camera films like Open Water, The Blair Witch Project, and to an effect, Gerry (the last picture mentioned had well known actors in it but the themes are self sufficient), Paranormal Activity is a welcoming success. It’s a small scale exercise that generates overbearing tension and surmountable fear. With a small budget, a no-name cast, and no musical score (certain classics like Halloween needed the music so there you go), the tone of this film at times, will shake you. When I initially saw it in 2009, I thought it was moderately effective (in my mind, I have very high expectations for movies of this genre). It didn’t scare or haunt me as much as I thought it would. However, I applaud Paranormal Activity for its ability to avoid the gore factor along with getting solid improvisational work from two struggling actors off the street (I think the film was helped by not having a script. It made things seem so much more real). Now granted, the sequels/prequels that came after “Activity” wore out the novelty (except for Paranormal Activity 2 which is just as scary if not scarier than the first one) with each rushed installment. But what seemed like a good idea at the time (why not make a movie for $11,000 and see what happens) ended up turning into a national phenomenon. I even applaud director Oren Peli after I found out that he shot the whole thing in his own home (If I lived there, I couldn’t sleep in that bed post filming). Let me put it this way, this vehicle represents a Hollywood Cinderella story if there ever was one. Is it the most terrifying scare fest ever? Not quite. Does it possess a certain level of innovation and ominous glare? You betcha.

    With an ending that from what I understand, was guided by the hand of financier Steven Spielberg (yes that Steven Spielberg) and containing various sequences that were manned camera-wise by one of its stars, “Activity” examines a normal San Diego couple (actors Katie Featherston and Micah Sloat who use their actual names as their character’s names) who’s house becomes moderately haunted by a demonic spirit. In order to find out the origin of said spirit, Micah decides to film and document the strange happenings thereby provoking/inviting the evil into their lives (not intentionally mind you). This goes on and on throughout the film’s short running time to the point where possible possession may be inevitable (the demon is out to get Katie and has been following her since childhood). Micah even buys a Ouija board as a form of extreme measurement (to the dismay of his aggravated girlfriend). By then, you start to feel the walls closing in from an audience standpoint. The unnecessary actions by Micah’s character become a plot device implanted so the flick can ultimately carry on. I will say this though, he does add a bit of comic relief here and there. What can I say, it works despite all the dreariness surrounding the situation.

    Now as I mentioned earlier, the improvisational masking by the two main players is pretty good. But the most natural and possibly most catatonic performance comes from a psychic named Dr. Fredrichs (played by Mark Fredrichs, a virtual unknown). He warns the two house dwellers that they cannot run from this entity and it will haunt them no matter what. With an obvious sense of sored calamity, he nails his part perfectly where as Featherston and Sloat strain ever so slightly from time to time.

    When I put together my plethora of all time greatest horror films, Paranormal Activity is not solely on the list. I’m not biased to scary movies that have a higher budget because they get the job done as well (in case you’re wondering, The Exorcist is my all time favorite). But “Activity” is a clear benchmark of what a horror film can do with almost virtually no studio-planted resources. It’s a solid entry into the world in which people want to be frightened. And it also made a ton of money (there can never be anything wrong with that). If you’ve seen one of the ghosts shows on “The Travel Channel” or “A & E,” just think of a more heightened, more eerie, and more horrific experience all together. Paranormal Activity is innovative, surreal in its reality based factualism, and downright curdling in its “Hitchcockian” mindset. In terms of movie watching, it’s an “activity” you might want to pursue.

    Rating: 3 out of 4 stars

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  • Ten years after the release of The Blair Witch Project (1999), its influence still resonates among the younger generation of filmmakers. Credited as one of the few films to popularize the contemporary docu-realist movement, The Blair Witch Project changed how we look at cinema by showing that independent (and amateurish) filmmaking can succeed through clever marketing. Paranormal Activity is this decade’s Blair Witch. Many comparisons can be drawn – the most striking of which is its style of ‘documentation’.

    Using a hand-held video recorder, director Oren Peli attempts to create his version of the cult hit. “What happens when you sleep?” says the film’s tagline. Peli wants you to find out as you view the footage that is Paranormal Activity (there are no opening titles or end credits), and witness for yourself the horrible things that besiege a couple in the confines of their house in the wee hours.

    The film is obviously not a raw footage as Peli would have led any fool to believe; even though it is ‘raw’ in the sense that there is a lack of the composed framing of scenes, it surprisingly features polished scene-to-scene transition and edits.

    While the smooth transitions somewhat provides temporary relief in a highly disorientating film, Peli’s over-reliance on it is the film’s most glaring drawback. Day-to-night-to-day transitions appear too frequently, affecting the development of effective tension.

    For Paranormal Activity to be truly scary, Peli should have devoted the last thirty minutes of the film to the recording of the happenings in a single night so as to have a sustained sequence of horror and tension (instead of breaking it up into several nights which weakens the suspense quotient).

    For most parts, the suspense occurs in the bedroom while the couple is sleeping. A video camera records any supernatural nocturnal activity in the room (they do ‘appear’ in many forms and in increasingly bizarre fashion). Admittedly, there are some moments which are disturbing and hair-raising but they are fleeting moments, they come and go with a snap of the finger.

    Hitchcock’s Psycho (1960) made many wary about taking a shower; Spielberg’s Jaws (1975) made millions think twice before dipping their big toe into the sea. Paranormal Activity, on the other hand, never comes close to the greatness of these two films. Does Peli’s film make me afraid of going to bed at night? Not at all. And for that it fails.

    GRADE: F (4.5/10 or 2 stars)
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