I find it hard to believe that people actually walked out of test screenings of Paranormal Activity because they found it "too scary" - that sounds like cheap publicity talk. "One of the most scary films of all time" is an exaggeration.
That said, there's a lot to like. The 'home-made' style (clearly influenced by Blair Witch) works well, with a convincing mix of CCTV film interspersed with footage from a handheld camera. The two leads, Katie and Micah, have a believable chemistry (although Micah's childish attitude towards the paranormal events really starts to grate as the film goes on, and seems rather unbelievable given what he has experienced). The tension is carefully cranked up - perhaps too slowly at times - and there are some genuinely unsettling moments that are handled extremely well; you feel a sense of impending dread as the lights go out and the nighttime footage begins once again. The ending (or at least, the one that was used - there are two alternative endings) has seemingly split opinion, but for me it was the most shocking moment of the film and worked well.
No doubt the hype had raised my expectations to levels that the film never really stood much chance of reaching, but nonetheless I do feel there were not enough shocks. As mentioned above, there are some really chilling moments - sometimes the tension is almost unbearable - but not enough in my opinion. I think there's too much of the 'daytime' footage, and this breaks up the tension.
Still, an enjoyably unsettling film that certainly has its moments. Kudos too to the director, who has achieved impressive things with a tiny budget, unknown actors and a tight timeframe.
Speculative Horizons is a UK-based blog dedicated to discovering the best in speculative fiction. Here you'll find book reviews, author interviews, artwork for upcoming releases, and commentary on all aspects of the genre.
A child of the eighties, I was raised on a steady diet of Ghostbusters, Thundercats and Transformers. I eventually discovered fantasy books via the awesome Fighting Fantasy series, and my love of fantasy led me to create Speculative Horizons, a popular book review blog I ran for three years. In 2010 I joined Orbit to work as an editorial assistant.