You know, this is a rather appropriate movie to be watching right now. Ever since The Blair Witch, the whole “found footage” style of movie took off, with a new one seemingly coming out every year. When today’s movie came out, I honestly didn’t think much of it because the whole “mockumentary/found footage” style of movie was getting a little stale (and it had only been about 8 years at this point). Still, apparently plenty of people did enjoy the movie because I remember hearing a lot of people talking about it. I finally rented it when it came out on video and was surprised to find that it was a pretty good movie, but I didn’t feel like buying it. Luckily, my ultraviolet accounts decided that I needed to own this movie. So let’s get our scare on with today’s movie, Paranormal Activity.
The plot: In San Diego, Micah is showing his girlfriend Katie the new camera he bought to record any paranormal activity that may occur while they are asleep. Micah is skeptical that anything will happen but Katie says that whatever happens has been happening since she was a kid. Micah films them throughout the day then sets it up for the night, figuring out where to place it and making sure there is enough light to see anything. As they are sleeping, strange noises can be heard in the video and the next morning, Katie finds her keys on the kitchen floor instead of the counter where she left them. Katie invites Dr. Frerichs, a famous psychic, to the house and as he asks her for more details about what is happening, Katie tells him that this has been happening since she was a kid. Both her and her sister saw a figure standing at the foot of her bed and their house had caught fire but there was no explanation for what caused it. As they explain about the camera and tell Frerich about the stuff that has happened in their house recently, he tells them that hauntings usually feed on negative energy then says that it sounds like she is dealing with a demon, as it has followed her around. Frerich says that he isn’t able to deal with it and suggests a colleague named Dr. Averies that can help them. Micah asks about getting a Ouija board to try and communicate with the demon and figure out what it wants and Frerich says it most likely wants Katie and if it senses them using a ouija board to try anfd communicate, it could make things worse. After Frerich leaves, Katie chastises Micah for being rude to him and says that she wants to call Averies in the morning but Micah convinces her not to, as he still doesn’t believe anything supernatural is going on. Micah sets up the camera for the night and as they are asleep, their bedroom door is shown to move and strange growling sounds can be heard. When Micah reviews the footage, he sees the door and shows it to Katie, who is shocked to see it happening. Micah wants to try to find a way to make money off of it but Katie just wants to figure out a way to get rid of it. As Micah taunts the entity, Katie says she wants to stop filming things but Micah continues with the camera, taunting the demon while moving the door back and forth. That night, Katie wakes up in the middle of the night from a nightmare and as Micah comforts her, they hear a loud noise downstairs and Micah goes to check things out but finds nothing. The next day, Micah plays some audio that was recorded from the camera before they woke up and says that he wants to buy a Ouija board but Katie makes him promise not to. Several days pass where nothing happens and Micah taunts the demon before they go to bed but that night, they hear a loud screech before a massive thud is heard and when they check downstairs, they see that thud was enough to cause the chandelier to shake. As they head back upstairs, they continue hearing sounds throughout the night and Micah is excited about the situation. Deciding to do an experiment, Micah uses a microphone and starts trying to ask questions of the demon and as he listens to the recording, he hears a grunting sound when he asks if he would like to speak through a Ouija board. The next night, Katie gets up in the middle of the night and is shown to be standing at the side of the bed staring at Micah for 2 hours before she heads outside, where Micah finds her on the back porch swing. As Micah goes to get some blankets, he hears a noise upstairs and their TV suddenly turns on and starts playing static. As Micah looks around, he is surprised to see Katie at the doorway and she tells him that he woke her up as she gets back in bed. The next day, Micah shows the video to Katie, who has no recollection of anything that happened. That night, Micha borrows a Ouija board and tries to get Katie to help him use it but she gets pissed off that he broke his promise and leaves the house, as they were supposed to be going out. Micah follows after her but while they are gone, heavy footsteps are heard and a strange breeze is seen blowing the leaves of their plants as the needle on the Ouija board starts moving around, just before the board catches fire. When they return home, Micah is shocked by the Ouija board but Katie is upset and says she is done with everything and kicks him out of their bedroom. The next day, Katie makes Micah apologize on camera and he tries to show her the Ouija board but she tells him that she doesn’t care and he needs to get rid of it. As things continue happening, Micah decides to try an experiment and pour baby powder on the upstairs floor by their bedroom to see if whatever is making the noise leaves any tracks and Katie agrees to let him on the condition that she can call Dr. Averies if it doesn’t work or it makes things worse. That night, they are woken up by a noise and see footprints in their room and when Micah follows them, they discover the attic is open. Micah heads up to look around and sees something in the insulation and when he goes to get it, he discovers it is an old picture of Katie as a kid that has been burnt, which shocks Katie. Katie calls Dr. Averies, despite Micah objecting to it, only to learn that he is out of town so she calls Fredrichs and ask him to come back. That night, something turns on the downstairs light and heavy steps are heard coming up the stairs, waking Micah and Katie. As Micah goes to get out of bed, the bedroom door suddenly slams shut and they hear a banging noise on the door and Micah goes to look around, with Katie following behind him, when the bedroom door suddenly slams shut and more banging is heard and Katie refuses to go back in the bedroom but when they hear more noises coming downstairs, Micah convinces her to come back to the bedroom. The next morning, Micah finds her on the couch and Katie is exhausted from staying up all night and as they are eating, they hear the sound of breaking glass and they find a picture of them has been broken. Katie feels something breathing on her and runs downstairs and Micah searches the upstairs but find nobody there. When Fredrichs arrives he senses the presence and tells them he can’t help them as his presence is only making things worse and tells them to wait for Averies to return in a few days. As they go to sleep that night, something moves the sheet off of Katie’s foot and more lights turn on and off when Katie wakes up as she feels something breathing on her. The next day, they watch the footage from the camera, with Katie getting freaked out when she sees a shadow moving across the bedroom door. Micah finds a story online about a girl in the 60’s who went through the same thing that Katie is going through and her parents hired an exorcist but Katie doesn’t want to do it as the girl died. As the day progresses, Katie and Micah end up arguing over what is happening but as they go to bed, the demon drags Katie out of the bed and down the hall, with Micah struggling to get her back to the bedroom. The next day, Micah says they are going to go get a hotel room, as he doesn’t want to stay in the house another night and he uses the camera to record Katie’s wound on her back, which he says looks like something had bitten her. As Micah packs and goes to leave, Katie says that she doesn’t want to leave and that everything will be fine if they stay and Micah gets upset but refuses to leave Katie by herself. That night, Katie gets out of bed and stares at Micah for 2 hours, as the sheets are dragged off of his body, then heads downstairs to the kitchen. Katie suddenly starts screaming for Micah and he wakes up and rushes downstairs but after a minute he screams in pain while Katie suddenly goes quiet. Heavy footsteps are heard moving up the stairs and Micah’s body is suddenly thrown through the bedroom door, knocking over the camera. A blood covered Katie is shown in the doorway and she approaches Micah and crawls over to his body, then looks up at the camera and lunges towards it, with her face taking on a demonic appearance. In a written epilogue, police find Micah’s body on October 11th, 2006 but Katie’s whereabouts remain unknown.
Paranormal Activity met with mostly positive reviews from the critics, holding a certified fresh rating of 83% on Rotten Tomatoes. The critical consensus on the site is, “Using its low-budget effects and mockumentary method to great result, Paranormal Activity turns a simple haunted house story into 90 minutes of relentless suspense.” The movie was a box office phenomenon, earning $193.4 million off of a $15,000 budget, and would spawn 4 sequels and a spin off. While originally developed as an independent feature for film festival screenings, Paramount /Dream Works acquired the rights to distribute it for $350,000, making this one of the most profitable films ever made, though the exact amount is hard to determine.
As much as I didn’t initially care about this movie, this was a surprisingly good horror movie. The acting was good, with Katie Featherston (Katie) and Micah Sloat (Micah) doing great jobs in their roles. The basic premise was pretty interesting, as it seemed like a combination of Poltergeist and The Exorcist. This blend actually worked well with the camera format that was used, as this made for some really good tension and quite a few good scares out of the mix. The scenes with the footprints appearing in the baby powder, and where Katie is dragged out of the bed and down the hall, made for some incredible imagery, and really helped the increasing tension in the movie. The camera work was pretty good and really helped with the overall tone, as you could feel Katie’s increasing dread over what was going on, as well as Micah’s increasing frustration at not being able to figure out what was happening. A really good horror movie and one that would be worth watching tomorrow especially.
Rating: 4 out of 5