Paranormal Activity (2009) Movie Review

Just a bit over a week ago, a little film popped onto my radar: Paranormal Activity. The ghost film, shot on a budget of just $11,000 or so, was premiering across the country in a rather clever format: midnight screenings near many of the country’s largest universities. Coupled with strong early reviews, the buzz began to build. When I tried to attend last Friday, the showing was already sold out, as was the case elsewhere. This weekend, the movie opened wider, and next week, thanks to the website reaching a million hits, Paramount will release it nationwide.  People, we have a bona fide phenomenon on our hands.

If you’ve heard that Paranormal Activity is 2009’s version of The Blair Witch Project, the comparison is just. The movie is shot on a handheld camera and features only four actors. It relies on sound effects and moving doors to spook the characters and the actors, and spook it does. Paranormal Activity is one of the freakiest movies in years.

The plot is simple: a couple has moved into a house together and set up a camera in an attempt to capture the creepy things that go on at night. As it turns out, Katie (played by Katie Featherston) has been haunted by something since she was eight years old, though whatever is bothering her seems to come and go. Lately, it has returned, and thanks to her rather curious boyfriend, Micah (Micah Sloat), the two begin to experience an increasing number of disturbances.

Paranormal Activity is authentically scary. Writer/director Oren Peli knows that it’s the basic, realistic bumps in the night that scare the average person, and that’s exactly what he delivers. That creaking on the stairs or in the attack. The door that slams shut out of nowhere. The sense that someone else is in the room with you. These are the frightening things Peli takes advantage of, and he uses them within a well-written, well-acted film that feels a lot like it’s real footage.

Sure, once some bad things start happening to the characters you’d assume they’d go to a hotel immediately, or that Micah would stop asking, “What the hell was that?” night after night, or that he would learn to keep his mouth shut. But these are nitpicks. The movie keeps you on the edge of your seat, not because it’s full of a ton of thrills but because the “footage” feels like it could be taken by anyone. Peli crafts some incredibly simple but effective scenes: the powder footsteps, the woman standing still for hours on end, the dragging sequence. There are some images in this movie that will stick with you for a while; I’m getting shivers as I write this in the large, empty house where I’m spending the night.

Like The Blair Witch Project, this movie may only work on its first go around (have you watched The Blair Witch Project recently and realized how boring and non-scary it is?), but that’s OK. This is a movie meant to be watched in a dark theater with a horror-loving audience. People will whimper, others will close their eyes and many will laugh at how scared they are over something so seemingly harmless.

It’s rare to find a horror movie that is actually scary, but Paranormal Activity is one of those movies. It won’t be nearly as effective the next time I see it, but the movie is one of the most frightening experiences in recent memory.

View this Paranormal Activity movie review at its original location – FilmJabber!

By Erik Samdahl
Related categories: Movie Reviews


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  • This movie was the worst waste of our time. It wasn’t scary it was stupid and it was on the vane as Blair Witch another waste of flim and everyones time and money. I demanded my money back for the two tickets I bought and got it before I left the theater. DON’T WASTE YOUR TIME OR MONEY ON THIS PIECE OF @#** !!!!

  • Jennifer Padilla

    Thank you Howard. I am sick and tired of reading reviews for this movie that say it’s so scary and frightening. This movie was terrible. It was not scary at all and at times somewhat humorous. It was the biggest rip off ever. No wonder the previews for this movie never showed any of the movie,only the audience jumping from some loud bang or shadow. I too want my money back for this lame movie. I would not recommend seeing this movie.

  • Hi Howard and Jennifer,

    Thanks for your comments! I think it’s safe to say that this movie is either going to hit someone hard or not at all, which was the same situation as we saw with The Blair Witch Project. Walking out of the theater and having talked with numerous people over the last few weeks, the majority reaction appears to be that it freaks people out.

    You two were lucky – or perhaps unlucky because it had no positive effect on you – to not be scared by it in the least. I’ve had this happen to me with plenty of other movies, though I will admit that Paranormal Activity is one of the few horror films I’ve ever seen to give me nightmares.


  • Jacob

    I just finished watching Paranormal Activity. Its 2:09 in the morning right now. I watched it alone. OH MY GOD! Scariest movie i have seen for awile now. I am 16 years old. I didnt really start watching scary movies until i was like 14ish. The first one i have seen was “When a stranger calls” Not that scary right. And i just recently watch “The Haunting in Connecticut” Very good, almost scared me, it was more jumpy. It didnt make me breath deep and i didnt get that heavy gut feeling. But during this movie, every time they went to go to bed, i got that heavy gut feeling. And i was actually relieved once they woke up. I felt like i was in there. This also happend to me when i was watching the TV Series “Harpers Island” Every time it was night time, i couldnt wait until it was day. xD

  • Dani

    I have a little theory called the burning building theory; which I believe relates to such films as The Blair Witch Project and Paranormal Activity. If someone is outside a burning building, the most that can happen is maybe a little fear and probably empathy for the persons within the building. Whereas, if someone is inside the burning building, they care not about the ones witnessing their situation, but are scared half to death of what is going to happen next, be it pain, damages or death. If you did not find any of those two movies scary, then congratulations, you now get to ridicule somebodies hard work in which you know nothing about. you are the person outside the burning building. If you did find them scary, unlucky of course, nightmares aren’t fun, but at least you know that you are human and have real emotions and can connect with your fears and have respect for hard working, creative people.

    sorry to anyone who i may have annoyed or insulted but… grow up. You are the time wasters telling people not to watch a movie beacause your arrogance makes you think that your opinion is all they need to hear. give people a chance to watch these movies and make their own mind up!

  • Hey Dani,

    That’s a very, very good way of putting it!