When Steven Spielberg talks, generally people listen. I am, admittedly, one of those people. So when I heard that he was calling a small, independent film titled Paranormal Activity the scariest movie of all time, I got excited.
Paranormal Activity was released on limited screens around the country and got rave reviews. It wasn’t long until the entire country had heard about the new horror film. Paramount Pictures even released a marketing campaign where fans could log on to a website and “demand” the movie. Paramount swore that when it received one million demands, the film would be released nationwide. The campaign worked and Paranormal Activity opened nationally on October 16.
My roommate Hailee and I love scary movies and we are constantly on the lookout for the next Exorcism of Emily Rose or The Ring. So we decided to be brave, believe all the hype we had heard about Paranormal Activity, and go see it. We even planned to go during the day because we were so worried about being terrified.
We left the theater in shock and awe. We could not understand how Spielberg had hailed that movie as the scariest movie of all time. Don’t get me wrong, Paranormal Activity is creepy, it could even be considered downright scary. But placing the movie among the ranks of The Shining or The Exorcist is a mistake.
Made for a measly $11,000, Paranormal Activity documents the cursed Katie, whose boyfriend Micah decides to document the couple’s experiences in their new townhouse. Katie truly believes she has been haunted for her entire life, but Micah seems to be interested only because it gave him an excuse to buy a new camera. Micah sets up the camera in the couple’s bedroom at night and they wait for scary things to start happening.
The haunting starts slowly, at first only a few creepy noises, but then doors start swinging back and forth and slamming closed. Micah reviews the evidence every morning and he and Katie even recruit the help of a ghost expert, who enters the house, claims to feel a malevolent presence, and politely declines to help them, referring them to a demonologist.
Paranormal Activity begins to get a little scary when Katie rises from her sleep, stands over a sleeping Micah, and just watches him rest for about two hours before walking downstairs. When Micah finds her in the morning, Katie has no memory of her actions and it becomes apparent that the haunting is starting to affect her physically as well as mentally.
The original ending of the film was cut at Steven Spielberg’s request and a new one he suggested was added in its place. Having seen that one, I’m more interested in the original ending.
My biggest technical problem with Paranormal Activity was the way it was filmed. Since the film was originally marketed as a documentary, there is only one camera used for the entire movie and many of the shots are performed by one of the actors carrying the camera around. On the big screen, the effect is a nauseating roller coaster ride of blurry shots.
On the other hand, Paranormal Activity’s one saving grace was its actors. The unknowns Katie Featherston and Micah Sloat act with such passion and chemistry toward each other, there are times when it feels like you are actually watching a documentary instead of a fictional motion picture. I have no doubt that both actors will have their choice of upcoming roles in the future.
Overall, Paranormal Activity is definitely a horror movie worth seeing at some point. If you scare easily, it might even make the top of your 'must see every Halloween' list, but I was a little disappointed that it didn’t live up to its reputation as the scariest movie of all time.
For that, I’ll take The Exorcist.