film review: Paranormal Activity (2009)


Paranormal Activity posterWell technically Paranormal Activity came out in 2007 but it only got a cinema release in 2009, so (2009) it is. Not that it matters but anyway… better get on with this.

The force is strong with this one. Umm… the Paramount marketing force that is. This is apparently now the most profitable movie of all time. So of course, I wasn’t expecting much going in to it. Actually I genuinely wasn’t… I do wonder if I would have been better off carrying a bit of anticipation though, because as it was, I didn’t think that much of it. Maybe I would have enjoyed it more if I hadn’t been expecting so little?

In the interest of full disclosure I should probably mention that I felt very sick for the last 30 mins or so of this film. I was only queasy for the middle 30 mins. I’ve always had a problem with motion sickness and the whole shaky hand held camera really gets me. I can’t even watch people playing First Person Shooters and this was well beyond that. The last time I felt it this bad was at Cloverfield. It was a bit more tolerable during Cloverfield though. That might have been because the film was a bit more fun…

It’s not that Paranormal Activity was a bad film, it wasn’t. It was fine. As I think it through though, I realise that I can’t really point at the “best bit”. Because there wasn’t a best bit. But then again there wasn’t really a worst bit either. There was a stupidest bit, but I’ll leave you to pick your own, if or when you see it. There were also some pointless bits. And yes, there were some scary bits. I guess what I’m saying here is that it was a bit bitty.

My main problem with it was that it was cheap. Not that it was cheap looking but that the scares were cheap. It was real “things that go bump in the night” scary. There was nothing that was really… … let’s just say I kind of expected there would be a more insidious creepiness to it. It was all a very straight up “BE SCARED NOW!” kind of thing. I would have liked to have seen a bit more thought behind it. Not that I like jump scenes – like I said, cheap – but all the scares were pretty telegraphed and that was annoying. What’s the point of a jump scene you warn someone about?

Ah no, I’m not being entirely fair. I mean ok, I may have been watching a film starring the two least haunting aware characters I’ve ever seen but yer wan Katie really did have a great scream. I was well impressed with that. And I quite scared by it to a certain degree. I live alone in a two bed apartment and I’ve never been up to the attic so… uh… I’d rather not think about it. But it’s not like I had trouble sleeping or anything, it was no Exorcist and it was certainly no Event Horizon

In the end, I was disappointed by this film. Which is not to say that I hated it. Or that I think that people shouldn’t be scared by it. On the contrary, I think many people are genuinely scared by it and there’s nothing wrong with that. I save my disdain for people who are into the stuff like Michael Jackson: The Live Seance. I just didn’t think it was a great film.

I really think this might be one of those rare films that would be better on TV. I could imagine renting the DVD, watching it with a few friends and having a good time. Or watching it alone at home and being terrified. But in Screen 2 in The Savoy it just didn’t seem up to much.

Or who knows, maybe I was just put off by the nausea; it’s hard to appreciate an atmosphere when you think you might need to run to the bathroom to be sick any minute. I gotta start taking travel sickness tablets before watching these types of films…


NB: I am somewhat dismayed to see that there are plans for a Paranormal Activity 2… did Hollywood learn nothing from Blair Witch 2?

Also, shout out to the Paramount marketing team on this one. Great job folks.


  1. comment-avatar
    cinecritiqueamericainDecember 11, 2009 - 9:45 am

    What put me off of this film was the idiot boyfriend. I think I could have actually been scared and really gotten into it if it hadn't been for the moron who insists on antagonizing the demon, in spite of the fact that his girlfriend is suffering more and more because of his actions. The male bravado reasoning mid story didn't help either. Only an idiot would think that not being able to fend off a ghost is a threat to his manhood.

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