Movie Review: Paranormal Activity (2009)

Starting with our new set of movies: the first Paranormal Activity.

After a young, middle class couple moves into what seems like a typical suburban “starter” tract house, they become increasingly disturbed by a presence that may or may not be demonic but is certainly most active in the middle of the night. Especially when they sleep. Or try to.

I liked this movie, and this series even though it has some pretty regrettable parts. The movie is entertaining and one of the better of the shaky-cam, found video (well it isn’t film anymore is it?) movies I’ve seen. The movie follows a pretty standard outline for demonic possession: it starts, it builds, and then you get the end where either the demon wins or the hero wins.

My biggest problem with the entire movie, and the series, is the utter and complete lack of belief and downright disdain on the part of the boyfriend. It is similar in a lot of zombie movies and a ton of other forms of entertainment: characters just outright refusing to believe what is going on despite holding the person telling them in high esteem. Or seemingly high esteem. If I saw what the male lead sees I’d believe a lot harder than he does, and a lot sooner. It costs him dearly to be so foolish, and it’s a trend in most of the series.

Fortunately for a lot of this movie the camera isn’t hand-held, which allows us to avoid the dizzying shaky-cam that has become all so prevalent. One of the things I commend this series for is coming up with various ways to explain the constant filming with cameras that aren’t being held by a person operating a jackhammer in their free hand. I understand the realism aspect of that but it can be quite… distracting.

For the budget and their previous experience the acting is fairly good. They avoid any stupid effects issues by not really having any special effects. There’s also a lack of violence and gore. This makes for a better movie in my opinion than if they’d tried to squick it up. On the same hand there is zero nudity and unnecessary sexual activity — presumably this collection of found video has been edited to focus on the necessary possession related scenes.

The movie builds the sense of doom fairly steadily, fueled in part by the stupid boyfriend, and it continues to build until a sharp rise toward the end. Then it is quite suddenly and almost surprisingly over — the biggest knock I have for the movie is that the ending is almost out of nowhere and there’s a touch of feeling unfinished to that. But it’s not bad, just somewhat jarring from a film going point of view.

Still, they made a good movie for a low price and more than made their money back. Blumhouse was wise to pick this up for distribution, and it was a good start on a genre that needs a lot of help.

Report Card:
Running Time: An hour twenty-five.
Acting: Pretty decent.
Effects: There aren’t any.
Violence: Mostly off-screen.
Gun Use: N/A.
Gore: No.
Creepy? It has a creepy element to it.
Monster Type? Demon.
Funny? No.
Nudity: None.
Pacing: It seems a little steep toward the end.