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
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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