Reviews

Paranormal Activity

5

“Nooooooooooooo!”

Paranormal Activity review

Horror goes in cycles and 2009 is the year the wheel turned to crush torture porn. Drag Me To Hell and Trick ’r Treat traded in ghoulish fun, Let The Right One In brought subtlety and poignancy, while Martyrs – the year’s outstanding horror movie – subverted the sub-genre to create, in director Pascal Laugier’s words, “anti-torture porn”.

And now Paranormal Activity returns triumphantly to the Val Lewton ethos: the less you’re shown, the more you shit yourself.

Made for $15,000 by freshman director Oren Peli (and set entirely in his own house), Paranormal Activity sees – or rather doesn’t, as is often the case – young couple Katie and Micah (Katie Featherston, Micah Sloat) terrorised by a ‘presence’.

Half serious, half taking the proverbial, Micah buys a camera and sets it up at the end of the bed. What appears on playback is spooky. Then scary. Then absolutely, positively, ohsweet- Jesus-NO!!! terrifying. So much so that Peli’s ingenious micro-movie is being hailed by some as the Scariest Film Ever Made.

What’s really frightening is just how simple it all is – so stripped down it makes The Blair Witch Project, with its intricate mythology and Maryland shoot, seem fussily elaborate.

Shot in just a week (!), all we have here is a slow-build shockumentary featuring two identifiable protagonists and set, primarily, in a single room haunted by minimal special effects and creative audio. And yet it inflicts deep psychological wounds.

Why? Because we care about this couple. Because Peli drills into our primal fears. And because the static set-up applied to each night-time bedroom scene is expert in its composition – a clock reading on the bottom right, bed in the middle, and to the left an open doorway leading to a barely visible hallway and, beyond, an inky back bedroom.

Not since Carpenter’s Halloween has the frame been used this ingeniously, viewers having to focus pull as they sweep left and right for the impending threat. Now that’s scary.

Verdict:

Paranormal Activity trafficks in shadows and shivers yet is more malevolent than a dozen Hostels. Kudos to Spielberg for suggesting the deeply distressing ending. has the frame been used this ingeniously, viewers having to focus pull as they sweep left and right for the impending threat. Now that’s scary.

Film Details

User Reviews

    • albertleefizz

      Nov 28th 2009, 17:40

      5

      Trust the TF review. Just go and see it, if you dare!

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    • rorschach

      Nov 29th 2009, 1:04

      I really enjoyed it, but 5 stars? Naaa. You say what makes it work is that we care about the couple, well to me that Micah dude came across as an almighty tool of the highest order, I was actually looking forward to something happening to him. Anyway, deffo worth seeing, 4/5

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    • joeymac

      Nov 29th 2009, 23:26

      3

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    • Agostinho

      Nov 30th 2009, 5:32

      4

      something missing... i dont know what but was something missing!! I give to this one 4.5 stars!

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    • beck79

      Nov 30th 2009, 9:39

      3

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    • graverobber666

      Nov 30th 2009, 14:01

      1

      NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! It's over-rated, simple boo-jump! scare NONSENSE! Badly acted, appaulingly scripted and just DULL! Total Film I am appauled you've been sucked in by the hype!

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    • Egory

      Nov 30th 2009, 22:59

      1

      Absolutely awful, i've seen many films, and many of them horrors. This however was an uniteresting pile of rubbish. it was hard to stay awake during the film it was so dull and un tense. i didnt care for either character, they were unrealistic and Katie was simply an awful actor and for the first half of the film, in my opinion, was quite clearly acting. For the second half she was hardly on screen apart from in the dark so there wasn;t much acting anyway. Quite possibly the worst horror film i have ever seen, it was even more of a dissapointment than 'The Blair Witch Project' i didn't jump once and was bored out of my mind i can't believe that Total Film would give this a 5 star rating

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    • Erico

      Dec 1st 2009, 9:29

      4

      I found it to be a good film, I really felt the film connected with me and the audience in which surrounded me. My only problem was that the trailor was mis-leading. The trailor had shown us members of the audience whom had seen the film jumping out of there seat with fear, I nerver felt the need to jump out of my seat with fear. the closest I got was squeezing my partners hand. Good film thought. It really shows that money doesnt make a film.

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    • parker

      Dec 1st 2009, 12:21

      4

      a really good movie not nearly as scary as made out, but for 10 grand, what do you expect one of those movies you fall in love with the more you think about it later

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    • seano22

      Dec 2nd 2009, 16:47

      5

      Exquisitely terrifying - if this is the little movie that steals the mantel from tedious gorno horror flicks, I'll be a very happy person! Check out my review at Anyone For a Film - http://www.seano22.blogspot.com

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    • JGill25

      Dec 2nd 2009, 18:43

      3

      I think this film has been slightly over rated. however i can see exactly why total film have given it this rating as it is something fresh to the screens in a long time and out of the ordinary for some viewers. I didn't jump as much as i thought i would, but enjoyed it and would happily see it again.

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    • NoWireHangers

      Dec 3rd 2009, 11:18

      1

      I didn't think it was possible to make a film that was s*****r than the blair witch project but they somehow managed it. Far more movies worthy of your attention out there.

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    • randombloke2002

      Dec 3rd 2009, 12:03

      5

      I fully support the 5 star review. A winning combination of stripped down filmmaking and likeable, naturalistic performances from the two leads effectively drives the increasingly tense and creepy series of events to a genuinely horrific conclusion.

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    • jacoblost48

      Dec 5th 2009, 12:18

      4

      Brilliantly acted, shot incredibly, absolutely terrifying... It's jumpy etc, but the real scare comes when you get into bed that night and your mind just wanders to the static bedroom scenes. Some great moments in the film - some that I would personally hail some of the scariest moments in film - and I would definitely recommend if anyone fancies a good spook.

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    • Jrdnsans1792

      Dec 9th 2009, 15:21

      1

      How could this get 5 stars? It's incredibly boring for a start and as for scares, what scares? It is by far the least scary horror movie i have seen in years! All that happens for the first hour or so is a door will move, then there will be a loud noise, then the door will move, then there will be another loud noise, is this kind of stuff actually supposed to be frightening? When the film actually does start to get more interesting (If you've managed to stay awake up until this point), it becomes more comical than scary. Not once did i even jump during the whole movie but i must admit i did laugh a lot, not really the sort of qualities you would want from a horror movie is it? The acting from both main actors, but especially Katie is very unrealistic and wooden so you never really believe what you see on screen making it almost an impossibility for you to relate to the characters, let alone care about what happens to them! Overall this was an extremely dissapointing movie that should be well avoided at the best of times.

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    • RaveyDaveyGravy

      Dec 9th 2009, 17:21

      4

      have some imagination, this film is very unsettling http://lastnightisaw.wordpress.com/

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    • scabo33

      Dec 11th 2009, 10:46

      5

      Simply put...the most disturbing film ive ever seen. If u didnt enjoy it then u were prob too scared to admit to yourself...or have no imagination. Top stuff :) and who goes against Mr Speilberg? exactly.

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    • Crezzy123

      Jan 11th 2010, 15:11

      2

      I went to see this after being told it was the scariest film ever-and was bitterly disappointed. The end was well done, but the rest of the film was quite monotonous. I think the atmosphere in the cinema spoilt it too, people were laughing quite a lot which ruined some of it. Maybe my reaction would have been different if the other viewers were scared. Overall, film did not live up to the hype created by it.

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    • rxqueen2410

      Mar 31st 2010, 13:40

      4

      Watched it last night...gave me the creeps but the boyfriend kinda deserved what he got! One of the best horrors I have watched in a while though...better than Drag Me To Hell anyway!

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    • SussexUK

      Jun 5th 2011, 16:58

      1

      zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz what a load of tosh, utter rubbish. 90minutes of people running around a house everytime there is a bang of a door or creak of a floorboard. Overhyped rubbish with 1 scare right at the end which was creepy at best. Awful!

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    • timbatman

      Aug 19th 2011, 23:39

      2

      Adequate, but fairly badly scripted and the actress playing Katie was awful (especially in the first half) - what's the point in a found footage film if u don't believe it's real? Some fairly chilling moments, but it's not a patch on the far-superior Blair Witch Project.

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