Review – “Paranormal Activity” Film by Oren Peli

Paranormal Activity Poster

Paranormal Activity Poster

OK, what can I say. This film has been getting rave reviews and a lot of hype on the Internet. Reminiscent of The Blair Witch Project (and Cloverfield)  in that it is shot via a hand held (and sometimes stationary) camera, from a single POV, the film has some genuinely frightening moments. Kudos to the director and SFX folks who worked on the film. It achieves some terrifying moments that you don’t find in major big budget films, AND without the gore.  But that’s all there is folks. A few very scary moments in a film that runs almost 90 minutes. Take the ScreenPens Movie Poll below.

Paranormal Activity benefits from a clever premise and some handy post production work but never really achieves what it sets out to do.  And that is create and deliver a truly scary story. It amounts to not much more than a  grossly extended YouTube video.  All the great scenes that everyone is raving about occur in the last 15 minutes or so. You can watch the first 10 minutes, know everything about the characters and the story you need to know, go out for a burger and come back to catch the last fifteen minutes and then puke from fright.

All that being said, the last 15 minutes are fantastic. The filmmaker and the actors successfully create an atmosphere of dread and building tension that culminates in a riveting ending, all without ever seeing what it is that plagues them. Although clearly following the “Jaws” school of horror, Paranormal Activity makes the most of its unseen antagonist. Maybe too much.  In the 34 years since Spielberg gave us “Bruce” the shark, the audience has come to expect more screen presence from our villains.  At least something must be visible. This is after all a theatrical FILM and not a Steven King novel.

The characters, while likeable at first, never change or grow as people.  They stay pretty much “dumb” throughout the movie. In fact they stagnant after a while, getting at some point, most annoying. Seriously if you were convinced you had a murderous demon living in your apartment, who would stay there over two weeks trying to video tape it killing your girlfriend?

The actors do the best they can with this material so this is obviously a fault of the script , which never really gets going.  After a pretty solid set up, the story hovers and becomes redundant for almost 60 minutes. This reviewer found himself dozing off.  Other movie goers around me resorted to private (and loud) discussions which had nothing to do with the film. Not a good sign.

I sincerely don’t believe the hyped up story that Steven Spielberg found it necessary to leave the theater before the end, because he was so unnerved by the on screen action.  This film could have been cut into a 30 minute Outer Limits or Twilight Zone episode with much greater shock effect. His reason for leaving was most likely the inspriation to go out and make his own $30K film to gross $10 million at the box office.

Personally I would recommend that instead of paying the $10-$12 bucks for a theater ticket you wait to view this film for free (or near free) on Netflix or by P2P download.  If however you are the type that needs to be on top of the latest Internet craze then by all means see Paranormal Activity. At the very least you’ll have something to rave about over your high priced Starbucks Vendi coffee.

Title: Paranormal Activity Rated R, Genre: Horror, Run Time: About 90 minutes. Written and Directed by Oren Peli, starring Katie Featherstone, Micah Sloat and Mark Fredrichs. Playing in selected theaters around the country. – MP


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