Sunday 17 October 2010

A few words on Paranormal Activity

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.


The Dude said...

I also saw this movie recently and had the same opinion as you.

I don't know which ending you saw, but I think the ending on the Director's Cut(the one I saw) is much better than the one on the theatrical release.

Jebus said...


I saw the ending where she goes downstairs and kills him then the cops later come and shoot her. I agree there weren't enough thrills in it, the whole connection to the chick on the web was also poorly handled.

Best bit for me was the footprints and shadow moving around, I thought that was really chilling.

I don't recall any CCTV footage in the film? Are you referring to the camera he set up in the bedroom?

Anyway, great marketing made the studio that bought this a crap load of dosh and yes the walking out stuff and the "Demand It Now!" campaign were all part of that, some smart cookies there.

Sequel could be interesting but it will remain a DVD watch for me, don't need to see it in a cinema filled with idiots.

James said...

Jebus - I was trying to differentiate between the two types of footage used, but it's not really 'CCTV' so that was a poor description on my part. But yes, I was referring to the camera in the bedroom.

Interesting you saw that ending; I saw the ***SPOILER*** ending where Micah's body flies into the room and smashes into the camera, then Katie comes in covered in blood and lunges at the camera. I watched the other ending on the features part of the DVD - where Katie slits her own throat - but found that ending to be pretty tame.

And yes, great publicity campaign they had going.

logankstewart said...

My mom watched this film a few months ago and has claimed that it is the scariest movie she's ever seen. She's had nightmares and woke up terrified a few times. Yet, it wasn't scary enough to make her stop watching. I've not seen the movie, but she did say it gave her quite a fright.

The Dude said...

The ending that James saw was the one on the Theatrical release. The one that Jebus (and I) saw was the one on the Director's Cut.

I didn't know that another ending existed, but I agree that it seems too tame in comparison with the first two.

Yes, the sequel has potential but I'm afraid that it'll turn out like the sequel for Blair Witch, which was terrible.

Anonymous said...


I thought it had real promise but it couldnt resist the over done for dramatic effect stuff.The weegy board bit could have been so spooky and chilling but **WARNING SPOILERS PEOPLE****

when it sets on fire I thought ahhh the producers had too much of a hand in this to underplay everything.Too much showing everything takes the edge off unless you go into the film just wanting to be scared on a superficial level then it does the job but Once youve seen one standing by the bed staring at her partner time ticking away 4 +hurs then it loses meaning.What did it for me is when all that happens to her that night and the next shot is of her in the morning not packing her bags ..ohh noo shes drinking coffee saying nooo i cant take much more of this..What?? take much more of a ghost dragging you out of bed and throwing you out of rooom at high speed..but heyy they shock beyond shock slept in same room you do.Noo for me the film had moments but wont be remembered.I reckon most of us could have come up with a scene that was so chilling and original..there wasnt any in the fim that had you questioning your own fears and how you would react in same circumstance as both of thyem..the guy was too didnt fit as surely him being her boyfriend would have been alittle bit more understanding ..all for the obvious reverse effect in film..Cliches stacked on cliches..Its sad coz I havent seen a spooky film to touch The Shutter as yet.But maybe we all take different emotions into a film and want are fears testedon different levels.

hope I havent spolied too muchSteve

Anonymous said...

apparently there are 7 alternative endings read.I watched the film online 2 months before it came out in cinemas ..I watched it late at night no one in house..ilights off..and I left the room door ajar to the blackness out in passageway to get me really spooked ..but no .. The ending I saw was her SPOILERRRR***

killing him out of earshot downstairs in kitchen..then silence then the clomp of footsteps she comes intoroom stands there until morning then cops come in ( if i remember rightly)
sorry bout the anon I just cant be asked to sign up. hope my comments arent too wingy.

Jebus said...

I thought there were only the two endings but there's up to seven? I'd only heard of the one I saw and the one James saw (which I think is scarier than the one I saw).

Anyway, the main problem with the film is that I detested both characters and wanted them to die a horrible death, I believe this is the opposite effect the makers were going for.