Review: Paranormal Activity (2007)

This article was published on the original Sorry I’m on 01/12/09.

It would be an understatement to say that Paranormal Activity makes its long awaited arrival on Australian shores with some hype attached. Fuelled by an impressively strong viral marketing and word-of-mouth campaign to gain interest – not to mention the personal approval by one Señor Spielbergo – Paranormal Activityis the proverbial little film that could, slowly gathering screens and demand, and ultimately beating out the dismal – yet popular Saw IV – at the US box office. Triumph all around!

Paranormal Activity revolves around young couple Katie and Micah, the former of which is plagued by an uninvited demonic menace Hell bent (yep) on causing mayhem, misery and other bad words starting with the letter ‘M’. Embellishing the plot any further would do this film a disservice as this is a tale best viewed cold, the chills within are best kept shielded and then unleashed on your maiden viewing.

The film is shot in the Blair Witch-esque hand-held ‘found footage’ style and it works wonders in giving you those first-person chills. The use of the static-cam during the night scenes (when most of the action happens, mind you) and the use of silence ups your senses tenfold as you concentrate on picking up any activity of the paranormal variety, ultimately making the frights more intense when they do happen. This is the reasonParanormal Activity’s inventive, discreet scares are far more unnerving than lopped limps and exploding skulls (no matter how awesome they may be).

The story of how this film came into fruition is actually just as interesting and jaw-droppingly staggering as the tale itself. Shot on a strict 7 day schedule by a first time filmmaker (Peli – a man with no film training) in his own home with a store bought hand-held camera and on a measly budget of around $15,000 – Paranormal Activity’smodest production may lead to one of the most profitable films in history (currently  grossing around $100,000,000 and climbing). For you math fiends out there, that’s a victorious 98.5% profit. Yowsers! It was even planned to get a big-budget makeover but sane heads prevailed and released the original in modified form.

This really an event film that needs to be seen at the theatre with a few people, for then you can scrutinize the picture on a large screen as well as enjoying the (mostly lack of) sound in a completely ambient environment. This movie is all about senses and imagination! I have also seen the version going about the internet and passed around on cheap DVD’s. This version sucks camel cock! Not only do you lose the vital ambience but it is the original cut which is missing some cool scares as well as having a terribly different ending involving police. Steer clear of this version, it’s an abortion. See it at the movies (out this Thursday).

Paranormal Activity is an inventive breath of fresh air in a stale and musty horror environment. Be sure to catch it on the big screen and avoid spoilers. It is limited, but works within these limits with grandiose confidence. Big budget or gore-seekers need not apply.

– The way you know that each night scene is going to progressively get worse and you anticipate accordingly.
– Micah is douche supreme. I love it.
– The ambience is amazing.

– Slow pacing is not for those with attention disorders.
– Do not expect visual effects.

– Poltergeist (1982)
– The Blair Witch Project (1999)
– [Rec] (2007)

Directed by: Oren Peli
Written by:
 Oren Peli
Produced by:
 Steven Schneider, Jason Blum
 Katie Featherston, Micah Sloat
Distributed by:
 Paramount, Dreamworks
Run length: 
86 minutes
Australian Release:
 03 December 2009


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