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Movie Review: Paranormal Activity Disappoints Horror Fans

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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.

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About Meghan Partain

  • Shaylyn

    I watched the movie and it was definitely one of the best movies I have seen. I am 17 years old and a senior in high school, and I absolutely love horror movies. But this is the only movie that has made my tremble. The movie did seem like a documentary, or a home video. For $11,000 they did very well. Even with the blurry camera. I personally am going to go see it again with some more of my friends. Every time I see the ending in the trailers, I jump, even though I know it is coming. Some of the choices that they made, made the movie more realistic. Like showing her throw Micah at the screen at the end instead of showing a demon or something. Good job!

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/todd-ford/ Todd Ford

    Nice piece Meghan! I didn’t know about Spielberg’s involvement and I’ve never seen the trailer. I tend to avoid tools of hype as much as possible. The most dangerous thing you can do though with a movie like this is declare it the best or most or the scariest ever. It will always fall short for many people.

    I did find it one of the scariest movies I’ve seen and also one of the most clever.

  • Marco

    Watched the movie some weeks ago and felt asleep after 10 minutes. The first 30 minutes it’s just blabla talk. I would give it a rating of 1 of 200 points.

  • Fawn

    This movie started out a little boring then got more interesting as it went on… but the ending was just dissapointing.

    It claims to based on evidence, but if I were the family of that couple… I would not want their deaths so publicized.

    Scary for the most part… but not anywhere near The Shining and the Exorcist.

  • SheNJ

    The movie was terrible! I sat in the theater at the end waiting for something else to come back on because I just could not believe that movie ended the way it did.

    The movie dragged in the beginning and my friend went to sleep. People started to become irritated and began saying booo, and blurting out they wanted a refund. I must say, I felt the same way.

    I was so disappointed that I needed to see another film to justify my money spent. So my friend and I saw another movie, Law Abiding Citizen now that was a REAL movie!!! It was great!!! Bravo~

    In summary, Paranormal was awful and I do not recommend anyone to pay to see that movie!

  • Dave

    This is truly the worst movie ever made and I am not alone on this opinion. Just about the entire theater was nodding their heads at how they just blew $10 for this pathetic excuse for a film. Bad acting, bad filming (nauseating), bad plot. We were disappointed that we made a couple of spoiled rich kids richer by being dumb enough to throw money away on this. CSPAN or The Weather Channel are infinitely more exiting! The R Rating is also a joke – this was a G movie (did I say movie? – I meant Cheesy Home Video. Anyone who gave this movie any positive rating at all is either stoned, drunk, stupid, or on “the take” for sure!

  • John

    I didn’t see this movie, but I already knew that this movie was made by a bunch of rich kids that had connections. I knew this by how fast this movie got distributed; just like Blair Witch. Did you know that it had taken Sylvester Stalone 10 years pleading with Hollywood to make a movie from the script that he wrote. They finally relented and a movie was made. That movie was, “Rocky.” If you think its that easy to get a film you’ve made released or if you don’t believe me, try it for yourself!!! By the way, most movies that are made nowadays bite the big one anyways so this one must have really sucked ass!

  • James

    John — The movie has been finished and waiting to be released since 2007. Before Paramount picked it up, it was just a regular indie movie. It’s also unfair and pointless to compare how Rocky was made in 1976 to a movie’s production 33 years later since the Hollywood system and landscape has changed dramatically.

  • Alex

    Do not bother wasting your money with such a bore. What a waste of $7. I would have been more scared by the caloric intake that I would have had from spending that $7 at McDonalds.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/todd-ford/ Todd Ford

    My teenage daughter saw this last night with her boyfriend (a Saw fanatic). She called me from his house after the movie and told me she was scared to drive home and would I please turn on all the lights so she wouldn’t have to come home to a dark house. She slept with the lights on and was especially freaked out because Katie’s standing by the bed staring at Micah for hours reminded her of how her sister sleepwalks.

    I asked if her boyfriend liked it, fully expected her to say he hated it, and she said he loved it and the whole audience was jumping and screaming. She said a few people did say it was stupid as they were walking out.

  • frances

    I saw it, and it was one of the few movies that actually scared me. You thought the exorcism of emily rose, and the ring was scary? seriously?! they were a little ridiculous, and pretty stupid. Paranormal activity is a real horror film.

  • Derek

    I am not sure who here thought that movie was boring or not scary but that was one of my favourite movies of all-time. SO much better than most of the Hollywood horror crap they come up with today. It is an impressive feat to be able to make such a scary movie without using gore or violence but instead make a movie that effects people and their mind.

    I found this movie to be actually really frightening and it was an amazing movie, kept me on the edge of my seat. And I also think that the ending to it was awesome but the smile to the camera wasn’t needed. However, the part when she is walking up the stairs created great tension and it was an awesome frightful ending.

  • Nikki

    Thank you Dave and Alex! My mom and I went to see this movie and it was terrible! My friend saw it earlier that day and she told me not to, but because of all the talk we went. I still can’t believe we stayed as long as we did. To anyone out there who hasn’t seen it yet…DON’T!!!!

  • http://www.cinema100.com Todd Ford

    This may be the most divisive movie I’ve ever seen. I found it very effective and near perfect, but people I’ve come across in the real world and in the iworld seem to be split 50/50 between lovers and haters. Sometimes I wish I could see it through, say, Nikki’s eyes so I could understand how two people can have such a completely different experience.

  • Jeff

    Movie was not scary at all. I saw it and demanded my money back. Really, there was nothing new, nothing scary. How are shaky grainy film shots scary? How are random objects moving around scary?? How is this movie scary???

  • CARLOS

    TRULY A GREAT MOVIE, FOR ALL THE PEOPLE WHO WANTS THEIR MONEY BACK SHOULD KEEP TO YOUR FOOD STAMPS AND WELLFARE, A GREAT MOVIE AND IF YOU GUYS THINK YOU CAN DO BETTER MAKE A MOVIE

  • Alex Amory

    This was the single worst movie I have ever watched in my entire life. Utterly horrible. The characters were flat out so unrealistic in their actions, that I was blown away. The movie was a extremely long build up, to a climax (if you can even really call it that) that made you go…. Really? thats it? are you serious? This entire thing, just FOR THAT?!?!?! Horrible.

    Don’t believe anything these delusional people who convinced themselves this movie was good just to be a part of the hype, have to say. This is a very, very bad movie.

  • Jordan Richardson

    Saw it and absolutely loved it. I found this to be the first truly effective horror film in years. It is a movie about space and shadows, time and distance. It is NOT a movie about a big gory reveal or flashy special effects.

    If anything, I would have liked the film to have chosen a subtler approach to the subject matter and have left a few more things to the imagination. It is the anticipation that is absolutely killer here, with lots of waiting and watching in the dark with the characters to see what could happen. And Oren Peli truly knows that what’s scariest isn’t what we see but rather what we don’t see and what we imagine we see.

    To Alex, I didn’t find the characters unrealistic in the slightest. The male was the typical Alpha: as Roger Ebert says, he was the type of guy who wouldn’t ever ask for directions. He had his gadgets and his obsessions, but it’s clear that part of him thinks his girlfriend is crazy until he can’t deny the events anymore. And the events cause him to act like any Alpha would: he lashes out, becomes protective and wants to solve the problem.

    Katie was, on the other hand, tired of living with this “activity.” She clearly had hopes of getting on with her life but this “thing” followed her, so she, again, reacted as anyone in her position would have. Partially in denial and partially frozen by fear, she behaves consistently throughout the picture.

    All in all, this is one of the best horror movies I’ve seen in a long time. In a day and age of special effects and overly gory torture porn taking the place of true terror, it’s good to see that some people still know how to make scary movies properly.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/todd-ford/ Todd Ford

    I’m with you all the way Jordan. Btw, my latest thoughts on the movie being an allegory are the “link of the day” over at The House Next Door blog.

  • david k

    I think P.A. is a lot better than the Exorcist. That movie was a yawn. Hide and Seek with Dakota Fanning even was better than Exorcist

  • wally

    What a crappy movie!
    The teens working the snack bar where more terrifying than this thing.
    I make more compelling home horror movies with my cats than this piece of garbage.

  • shaye

    Me and my Boyfriend are horror film fanatics. We even buy the no name films from walmart that are cheesy as all get out just for fun. and when we saw the commercials for this film we just had to see it. on the way to the theatre we were like, “oh they say this is the scariest movie of the year” blah blah blah. This film… seriously…a waste of our time. It blows!! we kept waiting for something to be so scary but it never happened.if anything it was more commical than scary, Micah the boyfriend would mess with Katie with jokes and stupid sayings and everytime she would scream he grabed his big camera first to see what happened. the audience laughed more than they did scream. the end was the if you would even say the scariest part but it was a horrible horrible ending. im glad to hear other people agree with our opinion on this movie because all of the high school kids in theatre were freaking out after the movie saying they were so scared. to us it was pathetic and a scam for stealing peoples money. the commercials make the movie seem scary because they show the ending making people think the whole movie will be like that. why would people want to watch a girl stand for five min?? ooo thats scary!! i would have rather paid money to watch the Blair Witch Project AGAIN. pathetic excuse for a scary movie. please dont waste your time or your money.

  • Horror movie fan

    People, WHAT ARE YOU GUYS TALKING ABOUT?….. its been a long time since i watched a movie that keep me from sleeping that night. I know its not gory, its not a big cast of famous and there isn’t some exotic location but GEEEEZE this happened for real? there’s a lotta people out there claiming (some really proving) paranomal activity but nothing comes close to what happened here. Just makes me want to stay away from any girl named Katie :(

  • burrrr!

    this movie sucks! the ending sucks! i was like wtf is that it? gansters across my street are way more scary than this s@#$…
    for real if this movie scare u, you need to get out our house and get a life!

  • Scary Movie Finatic

    Real talk. I try and watch every scary movie that comes out! Past and present even the independent and unrated scary movies. This movie bothered me soo much. Well plotted, not over the top, no special effects, just plain scary. Not one person on this panel can say they didn’t jump or didn’t get cold chills during the movie at least once. I loved the movie but I want see it again though. It got to me way too much. My girl and I are on the same page. Sacriest movie of all time.

  • Alberto Hernandez

    Exorcist? The shining? You thought those movies were scary? Wow.

  • adam

    If you think this movie was scary then go watch blair witch.. they are both equally lame. This movie might have been slightly worse bc you know EVERY single time when a “frightening” moment was about to arise. The only good thing about this movie was looking at the bitch’s big titties. I wish i could get my money back. To be hyped up as one of the scariest movies of all time is completely absurd. Nickelodeon’s ‘Are you afraid of the dark?’ was scarier than this waste of time and money. DON”T SEE IT!!

  • adam

    Alberto mexicano.. if you thought this movie was more scary than the shining than you obviously haven’t seen the shining.

  • Unimpressed

    For those of you that think this movie is real or based on a real person, it is NOT. The movie was a whole lot of build up and if you’ve seen any type of paranormal show then you know everything that’s going to happen and the most will be most predictable and annoyingly a waste of time.

  • Hanna

    is it that scary? like i have an obsession with watching scary movies. but sometimes its too much for me. ive watched movies like room 1408, haunting in connecticut, or exorcism of emily rose,,,
    i want to know if this movie will scare me shitless or not???

  • http://www.cinema100.com Todd Ford

    Hanna – yes it will scare you. Or maybe it won’t. Go see it and report back asap.

  • blah balh

    three words “WORST MOVIE EVER”

  • Connor

    That movie was a total waste of time there were only two parts in the entire movie worth watching and you cant even call them scary there is a little bit of tension thats it and both of those are in the last 10 min

  • Katie

    Over the past few weeks, I’ve heard people say this movie was scary. I went with my friend, and we got to the theatre excited and expecting something quite thrilling. We had heard that the movie might seem to “drag on” a little bit in the beginning- but that was to create horrifying suspense. We gave this movie a real chance, up until the point where we looked at a watch and saw there was only 30 minutes of it left.

    Things started happening. When Katie got dragged out of the bed, I started cracking up. I wasn’t shaken with fear, I was shaken with laughter. When the posessed Katie walked downstairs and started screaming for Micah, I laughed again, but hoped something terrifying would happen. Then she brought him back upstairs, blood on her shirt, and sniffed him on the ground (to make sure he was dead? ) and jumped at the camera and it ended.

    I never even flinched. I did not scream. I did not even have chills zip down my spine. I thought Disturbia was scarier than that, and I watched it at home on my little computer screen… not at the dark theatre on the big screen expecting to claw the seat or my friend.

  • Jordan

    donot watch this movie! i jump and get scared really easy, but i didnt get scared at all.. The only thing that scraes people in this movie is surprise, kind of like someone yelling BOO! at you. It was terrible. my friend kept saying this is sooo gay, this is stupid.. and i kept tryin to reassure him and myself that this movie would get better, and would get scary. Nope. It didnt. The only time i jumped was when his body was coming towards the camera.. again.. because it surprised me. AND THAT WAS THE END OF THE SHOW! Haha i know i sound like everyone else, but seriously the people who like this movie must be veeeerrrryy easily scared by some special effects.. ‘OMG THE DOOR IS MOVING BY ITSELF!!! AHHHHHHH. I MAY NOT SLEEP TONIGHT’ haha. I was excited to watch this movie, due to the hype, but wow. Listen to that other guy and spend your money on a good movie, like, ‘law abiding citizen’

  • Carol

    Paramormal Activity was without a doubt the worst movie I have ever seen in my life. It was boring, boring, borning. The photograpy was so poor that my eyes hurt while I watched it. After a half-hour, a walked out of the theatre. Tomorrow I am going to bring my ticket stub to the movie theatre and ask for my money back. Shame, Shame, Shame on Steven Speilberg. I will never again pay to see one of this productions.

  • bleh

    BAd movie why is it even in theatres! it was so boring ! they talked through the whole movie and a door moved oh my god thats so scary ! worst movie award

  • sawyergirl

    DO NOT WATCH THIS MOVIE IF YOU FALL ASLEEP EASILY!!! NOT scary at all. I’ve had scarier stuff happen to me personally. But then again, are there really any scary movies these days? We have seen it all and heard it all. Even the ones that can keep your interest always fall flat in the end.

  • sawyergirl

    Spielberg must be a real wimp to think this was scary at all.

  • http://www.facebook.com thumbs up!

    thumbs up…to you guys!!!Don’t listen to them…the movie was nice and unique compared to other horror films…^^,
    KEEP IT UP!!!

  • cat tacos

    wow just wow that movie was painfull to watch. it is trully the SHITTIEST movie in existence, it is a shit stain on the underpants of bad movies, a shit-stain mixed with AIDs infested blood and pus. i hope the film-makers are sued for false advertisment. i feel like i got raped just because i saw the movie, no one in the theater jumped or screamed, and there were little kids in there too. it even seemed to lack basic story ellements, damn i hope the people that made this mivie get thrown into a bath of broken glass and sulfuric acid. who ever thinks this movie was scary must of been stoned out of there mind or paid to say it was scary, dont see it its a wast of money and you’re life

  • johnny blaze

    this movie sucked horribly bad horribly bad anyone who said it was good is living a fairy tale in their lives if they think this movie is scary then they are probably scared of their own reflection in the mirror they are softer than cotton candy they are softer than a serta mattres the movie was bad horrible never make one like that again it sucked

  • mack

    the movie was horrible i want my hour and a half of my life back along wit my money

  • Nathan Lee

    This movie sucks. It sucks horribly.

    I feel that there was some kind of bribery that out to all these websites and critics that gave this film rave reviews.

    I saw it with a group, and everyone was in total agreement – Boring. Uncreative. Unoriginal.

    The “scares” are taken right from the Exorcist and The Grudge in certain ways, but just so poorly done.

    We had a girl in our group who scares easily and she was unimpressed by this movie.

    Just a horrible movie. It takes place mostly in the couple’s bedroom, and the ‘husband’s dialogue was pretty annoying.

    I’ve heard only negative reviews of this movie between friends and associates. The only people who seem to love this movie are a few people on the internet and paid movie critics.

  • mary

    I could have and will make a much better movie than this over hyped,disastrous,waste of time!What a bloody joke!

  • http://www.esotericarticles.com/Paranormal_Activity_Analysis.html jlawac

    Come on, Paranormal Activity was a pretty good horror film. A girl in the theatre where I saw it was hyperventilating at the end, was good fun.

  • Mike

    This movie was so bad that i started to drift off in the theater. I have never been so bored in my life. I was able to sit through the movie only because i had my ipod to listen too for the pointless wast of my life ill never get back. Thank you for the worst movie ever made.

  • Nathan

    Words that could be used to describe Paranormal Activity.

    (a)Boring
    (b)Pathetic
    (c)Cheap
    (d)Laughable
    (e)Lame
    (f)Crap
    (g)All of the above

    This movie was so stupid. I held off watching it for a long, long time due to the fact that i knew it would be stupid. The style of the filming of the movie is stupid (just like blair witch and Cloverfield was stupid), It was not at all scary, it was, (yes you guessed it), stupid. The only thing positive to come out of watching this movie is, um, ah, err, hmmm… nothing.

  • no

    Seriously? “Exorcism of Emily Rose or The Ring” are both as stupid as this idiotic movie and all three are just as idiotic as that Blair Witch movie, from the 90s. There is absolutely nothing scary about ghosts and demons. It’s like being scared of the easter bunny or santa.

  • rrrr

    horrible movie =9

  • chris

    Paranormal craptivity is the worst horror movie actually the.worst movie Ihave ever seen! I was angry after, most scary movie pfff ive seen scooby doo episodes more scary!! Biggest pile of crap ive ever seen!!

  • Niklas Zenius Jespersen

    It’s possibly the worst movie I have ever seen. Although “Red Sonja” might still be worse. But “Paranormal Activity” is definitely the most boring film I have ever seen and the least scary! The little mermaid is more scary! The “horror” movie we made in 7th grade was more scary and with better acting. Everyone who even like this movie just a little bit have forever lost their right to comment on the qualities or lack of them in any movie.

  • Sierra

    Worst movie ever, Give me 2 weeks, a shitty camera, and 20$ and I can create a movie 100x better than this waste of time. Anyone who said it was scary is a serious pussy who has obviously never seen a real scary movie.