After experiencing what they think are a series of "break-ins", a family sets up security cameras around their home, only to realize that the events unfolding before them are more sinister than they seem.
After a young, middle class couple moves into a suburban 'starter' tract house, they become increasingly disturbed by a presence that may or may not be somehow demonic but is certainly most active in the middle of the night. Especially when they sleep. Or try to.Written by
Paramount Studios utilized paranormal researcher, Christopher Chacon, who is recognized as one of the world's foremost experts on paranormal phenomena, to promote and publicize the film. Chacon also works in the entertainment industry as a writer, director and producer. See more »
In the original Director's cut of the film, the name of the demonologist recommended by the psychic is Dr. Johan Abrams. In the Theatrical version, every time his name is mentioned it is noticeably re-dubbed as "Dr. Johan Averies". See more »
Is that what I think it is?
Depends on what you think it is.
I think it's a big-ass camera! Whatever happened to one of those little hand held cameras?
See more »
Fans who submitted their name on the official website during the film's theatrical run were treated with having their name listed in the film's ending credits on the DVD/Blu-ray release of the film as thanks from Paramount for making the film such a success. See more »
The version that was released in theaters is the cut supervised by Steven Spielberg. The Director's Cut, comprised of the unedited film with three possible endings, has several differences:
1. There is a scene in the Theatrical Cut not present in the Director's Cut that takes place early on, where Katie and Micah wake up and find her keys thrown from the kitchen counter to the floor.
2. The low frequency tone that occurs when the demon is present is not quite as loud in the Director's cut. There is only one instance of the demon whispering in the Theatrical Cut; there are at least three in the Director's Cut, all of which are heard in the bedroom at night.
3. A lot of the demon noises - the loud growl followed by the bang, the footsteps, even the shadows that appear on the bedroom doors - were completely re-dubbed and retouched. All of these scenes are much, much louder/noticeable in theaters for jump scares. There seem to be at least two added "shadow" effects - another on the bedroom door, and a silhouette in the hallway - in the Director's Cut, whereas the Theatrical Cut only has one shadow used.
4. The night when the demon plays the door games with Katie and Micah (opening and slamming it shut, knocking furiously) has been re-dubbed, as well. The knocking is much faster and louder in the Theatrical Cut.
5. There's some added dialogue between Katie and Micah where they discuss how the stress is negatively affecting their lives. She says she's failing her university course and won't pass unless she "does something drastic" on her midterm. He says he lost a large sum of money playing the stock market earlier, and that he'll be taking a break for awhile.
6. The demon's daytime attack is completely absent. The only time we get a good look at the picture that is smashed and clawed is when the two run up and down the hallway during the night to get away from the demon.
7. There's an extra video attached to the "Goodbye Dianne" explanation at the computer. There is at least two minutes of added footage of the woman's ordeal, which has been heavily used in the TV commercials. Micah shows Katie footage of Dianne's demonic possession and subsequent exorcism as she is tied to a bed. Her appearance transforms from healthy to disheveled and dark, with large cuts on her face and body. Eventually, the footage shows that the exorcism was unsuccessful, and the possessed Dianne becomes so destructive that she chews her own arm off to the elbow.
8. The double-layered voice Katie projects in bed when she says, "Everything will be fine from now on" (and later screaming downstairs) uses a different effect to achieve this. Unlike the Theatrical Cut, the two voices are very distinct.
9. The ending is completely changed. Katie awakes shortly after midnight on the final night, gets out of bed and stares at Micah for roughly three hours. Unlike the Theatrical Cut, she does not move to his side of the bed to continue watching him, and the sheets do not fly off of his body. Instead, she goes straight downstairs. After Micah is awakened by the scream, he runs downstairs and we hear the ensuing scuffle. Like before, Katie slowly climbs the stairs, except the footstep effect is slightly altered and when she enters the room, she is holding a knife and covered in blood. Micah's body is not thrown at the camera; he remains downstairs. Katie sits down on the floor against the bed and proceeds to rock back and forth, knife in hand, for several days. We hear her ignore phone calls and the door bell. Eventually, one of her friends comes in to check on her and finds Micah's body, which momentarily interrupts Katie's rocking. The friend lets out a scream and runs out of the house. Twenty minutes later, we hear the police knock and enter, warning anyone in the house to "make themselves known" because they have their weapons drawn. As they search the first floor, it appears as if the demon has left Katie's body: we see the light to the attic turn on, then off, as if the demon went back into hiding. The police come upstairs, find Katie and warn her to drop the weapon. She's dazed, running toward them yelling, "Where's Micah!? Where's Micah?!". The door to the attic slams shut, startling the police so much that one accidentally shoots Katie dead. The final sixty seconds of the film shows the confused policemen, asking "Where did that [noise] come from?" and ultimately declaring the house "clear". The film fades to black, and a text appears that dedicates the film to Katie and Micah.
PARANORMAL ACTIVITY is THE most popular movie of the year and will ultimately be regarded as one of the best horror movies of all time. Therefore, PA has warranted a HUGE debate on whether it sucks or not.
Under this pretense, I have divided this review into 3 sections: 1 for the things in the movie that work, 1 for the things that don't, and 1 for the summation.
1. Originality - not a cheap knockoff or a member of Hollywood's non-stop horror remake/reboot wave. That is a game winner right there! Comparable to the Blair Witch Project, PA has received a lot of flack as being a rip off of BWP. Taken into consideration, the film's only real similarity to BWP is the use of home camera/1st person footage, and non-professionals inducing reactions from the supernatural world. That said, you have to answer yourself a question: Would you rather see another Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake, or a completely original off-BWP type film?
2. Suspense and Tension - the film does not rely on cheap scares and loud noises deafening you to induce the desire reaction of fear. Nor does it have the smallest fraction of gore/sex/exploitation compared to most of today's horror movies. If you prefer horror movies that usually don't stick with you and follow you out of the theater, then skip it by all means. The film gives you a few inches, and leaves your imagination to finish the mile.
A suggestion on viewing the film: If you want to get the most out of Paranormal Activity, then DO NOT see it in the local theater on a Friday night. We all know what happens when you are in a theater with middle and high school kids during a horror movie. To fully immerse yourself in the movie, see it with your significant other, by yourself, or with just a couple of friends at a time when the theater is the least crowded. Try to see it at night, or at home in the dark. This film invades the sanctity of one's bedroom, and the old tactic of pulling the covers over your head doesn't work.
3. Special Effects - even on a small budget, the film provides some very impacting scenery. Some effects are blatantly obvious, and some of the best effects are actually the most subtle.
4. Acting - the movie is well acted considering it is full of unknowns. The characters are not obnoxious like most horror movie protagonists. They appear genuine and very convincing in most of the film. But in some scenes, not so much. More below.
5. Plot - there is a pleasant (oxymoron) surprise with the direction the film went regarding the source of the phenomena. It's not your typical ghost or haunted house story. I will not embellish on this as it will spoil the movie for those who haven't or are deciding to see the movie.
******THE NOT SO GOOD***********************
1. Writing - this is actually a 50/50 split. The 'supernatural' scenes are very convincing considering the subject matter, whether scripted or improvised. However, the dialog and character motivation/action during the 'down time' is unrealistic at times. This is a large complaint by those who didn't like the movie. Although the film is a large departure from teen filled slasher movies, the characters at times seem to be just as brainless as the teens getting whacked by Jason. There is a lot of "WHY DIDN'T THEY JUST....?" scenes in the movie.
2. Acting - like the writing, the acting seems to suffer in the 'down time'. Fortunately, during the important (scary) scenes, the acting is spot-on, and very convincing. However, you might be taken out of the movie when the protagonists are interacting with each other during the in-between scenes, and the authenticity of their relationship is questionable in some parts.
3. Scenery - granted that the whole movie is filmed in or on the characters' house, the static viewpoint of the camera gets a little boring. With all the phenomena going on, it would have been refreshing to see things from a different angle, especially in the bedroom. Fortunately, this doesn't hinder the movie, just a minor complaint.
******AS A HORROR FAN***********************
Follow the suggestions above regarding with who, where and how to watch the movie. Seen under the right circumstances, and with the right state of mind, the film can be very effective, and having you looking over your shoulder when you turn out all the lights in the house, and crawl into bed. For this reason, I fully endorse this movie as a new member of the horror family. Fresh and original, the movie deserves all of the attention it is getting.
Let this be a glaring message to Hollywood that originality is still the craved for in the movie industry. Horror fans have grown tired of having their favorite classics butchered and pointlessly remade. Directors and producers do not deserve revenue for just upping the violence and sexual gratification of old horror movies.
The film's success is also a great indication that as a population, movie goers respond better to thought provocative subjects than mindless in-your-face cannon fodder. It relieves me to some degree to see that tension-fear based horror movies still have the chance to take the cake. Especially on such a small budget.
Well Done, producers, directors, and actors. 8/10
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