Review: “Paranormal Activity”


I’m sure by now you’ve seen the preview for the stealth major-studio release Paranormal Activity, or have heard in hushed tones about people who have seen the movie at midnight screenings and been so scared that they went into labor (“And he wasn’t even PREGNANT!!”), rended their garments, or simply pooped their pants.

While the Little Movie About Two People Sleeping With a Camera in Their Bedroom Who Aren’t Named Kardashian That Could does have a trick or two up its sleeve and while I like a good bandwagon ride as much as the next guy, I’m sorry to have to report the following about this minimalist sensation:

The scariest thing about this movie is the couple’s godawful taste in drapes.


I’m not saying Paranormal Activity isn’t worth seeing, because it is. (Barely.) It’s just unique enough and has one or two fun “WhatThe?” moments that are worth checking out. But you might want to enter with expectations adjusted for hype and for the fact that if you are reading this review on this particular site, you might be well enough acquainted with horror movies to know a pretty sloppy one when you see it.

The extremely lean premise is this: A douchebag day trader San Diego resident named Micah and his girlfriend Katie have been having what they think might be paranormal activity in their home (lights going on and off, scratching noises, etc.), so Micah buys a videocamera in an attempt to capture it on tape.

Okay, that’s a fine enough premise, although I was immediately concerned that there’s very little to be done with it. But that concern was immediately dwarfed by a much larger and much more immediate concern:

I’m going to have to spend 90 minutes in a house furnished entirely from Direct Buy.


Since neither Micah nor Katie is terribly complex or interesting, I spent most of the ensuing hour and a half gasping in shock not at the marginally spooky goings-on regarding their little haunting, but at the drapes, the bedding, and – most terrifying of all – at the homo-baroque towel sets and shower curtain.

Ugh. Deliver me from the Cindy Crawford line at JC Penney.

Anyway, back to the movie … and I’ll stick to the non-spoiler basics here before getting into my real issues with the film below, for the peeps who have seen it.

It seems that Katie has been experiencing on-and-off hauntings since she was eight, so the psychic they bring in thinks that it might be demonic in nature, which he can’t help with. (This is all in the first 10 minutes of the movie, so no big reveal here.) He gives them the name of a demonologist and warns them not to antagonize the entity and not under any circumstances to attempt to contact it via Ouija Board, etc.

Write that last bit down.

From this point on we watch the couple sleep, bicker, sleep, whine, sleep, fight, sleep, sleep, sit on the enormous sofa, sleep, and sleep for the next several weeks. And it’s really just about that interesting. If you watch any of the “reality” shows from which this borrows its premiseĀ  (Paranormal State, Ghost Hunters), this is pretty much the stuff that wouldn’t make it to air.

We also learn that Micah is an even bigger butthole than he came across as initially, as he is clearly trying to antagonize the entity at his girlfriend’s expense to get something on video. And that’s about all I can say without giving too much else away, because there’s not that much else to it.

If you haven’t seen the movie yet and don’t want the one thing that isn’t in the trailer already spoiled, jump to the rating at the bottom and the exclusive revised trailer below, which advertises a far more horrifying cinematic experience.

***SPOILERS FOLLOW**********

Okay, let’s talk turkeys here. What the fuck?! People are seriously getting freaked out by this shit? I’m sorry, but I was actually laughing by the end of the movie (particularly the embarrassing final shot) and had to follow my eyes – which had rolled out of my head and out to the concession stand for more Raisinets – out of the auditorium.

Again, there are a few good moments here and that’s the only reason I’m giving this a passing grade (again, barely). But they really made a lot of really bad choices here. The photo in the attic? Really? So what – this demon was carrying it around in his demon wallet and it fell out when he was taking a nap in the fiberglass insulation?

And what’s with Katie’s clearly being possessed halfway through the movie and then not again until the last scene? What, was he test-driving her along with a few other girls on the block or something? I was shocked that after that sequence the story backpedaled to more watching people sleep. It really just got tedious after a while – I mean, come on, there’s no way this was real footage, so where’s the scare in it? The preview used two of the three legitimately shocking visuals of the film (the third being my favorite – when she was dragged, drumstick-first, out of the bed and down the hall), so it was a long haul to sit through.

I also had a hard time swallowing that Micah was THAT stupid. I mean, I get the whole “douchebag boyfriend gets his for putting his gal in harm’s way” thing, that’s fine. But he was actually doing research on demons and still didn’t pick up on any of the glaring signals that she might be possessed at the end? Please.

There was also just too much done here for the sake of “getting the shot” that made no sense in the context of what was actually going on. Why did Katie stand over Micah for two hours the last night, only to then walk downstairs and scream for him and then throw him back into the bedroom? For the sake of the shot, right? Lame. And I actually found the handheld “exploratory” sequences to be much more engaging than the tripod nightvision shots, and wish that they’d employed that technique more.

And I loved the final title card suggesting that Katie is roaming the hills of San Diego eating raccoons and berries or some shit – puh-leeeeeeeeeze.

***END SPOILERS***********

Anyway, for what it was, there were a few interesting moments and it is pretty unique, so I have to grudgingly admit that it is worth seeing. But really, don’t expect another Blair Witch (or even a Cloverfield, which was leagues more intense and convincing than this), or you’ll walk out feeling that the only paranormal activity at work is that of your money being apparated from your wallet.



Paranormal Activity is rated R for language, scenes of relentless and brutal textile-related horror, and gratuitous bare feet.

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Buzz created in 2003 to meet a need for a safe place for weirdos of all stripes to discuss horror movies from a queer perspective. Now that the campers have overtaken the Camp staff and locked them in the Arts & Crafts cabin he is questioning that decision.