Paranormal Activity (2009)
By: Devon B. on July 22, 2010  | 
Icon | Region 4, PAL | 1.85:1 (16:9 enhanced) | English DD 5.1 | 83 minutes (Full Specs)
The Movie
Cover Art
Director: Oren Peli
Starring: Micah Sloat, Katie Featherston
Screenplay: Oren Peli
Country: USA
External Links
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Not since The Blair Witch Project has a low budget, or perhaps even big budget, horror offering been as hyped as Paranormal Activity. The film had lots of people talking and earned heaps of money. The buzz has surely peaked now though, as it earns its third Digital Retribution review. I think it's the first film to claim this honour, but is it worth all the fuss?

Well, kind of.

The film focuses on a couple. The female has had odd things happening around her for most of her life, and her fella decides that he's going to document said happenings and buys a camera. He begins recording and reviewing everything that goes on. She isn't thrilled with this, particularly as he seems to think it's a game, but she accepts it as his way of coping with the strange situation he's in. He also thinks his documentation will help them figure out what to do. She's all right with his filming, but he also takes to challenging the presence. This causes her great concern, and much of the film is them squabbling over what step to take next.

Paranormal Activity has some very good things about it. There's some reasonable logic on display, like that the reason the guy gets his way with the video camera is because the woman didn't warn him about her ethereal friend before all three of them moved into together. It's also not the house that's haunted, rather the woman, so it makes sense that the couple can't just flee and be safe. Sadly, there is also some very illogical stuff, like the guy's absolute refusal to allow any "expert" help no matter how clear it becomes that he doesn't know what to do. It's hard to gauge how good the performances are as within the construct of the story people are very aware they're being filmed. There are some moments where the acting falters, but overall the thespians do an okay job.

But what Paranormal Activity does really well is make audiences jump. I understand why the film freaks out the average viewer, but I'm not sure if it will get the same response out of us hardened Digital Retribution types. The film lacks a building of tension, which is essential for any ghosty sort of story to be truly scary. Another real problem is that most of the paranormal activity takes place at night, so each time a night ends the terror level is reset until the next night. I understand breaking up the scares, even back in the 30s James Whale knew to break up the horror with humour, but Paranormal Activity breaks things up with boring scenes. When it's daytime, the film is really, really dull. I suppose genre newbies might find the eventual slip of the night time disturbances into the daylight hours unnerving, but for me it was just too slow going. Due to the "found" footage aspect, Paranormal Activity plays better on the small screen, but even then it's not the great film it's been made out to be in the mainstream media.

The DVD comes with the theatrical ending and an alternate ending. The alternate is better, but lacks the jolt that made audiences shriek in the theatre. Neither ending makes the film anywhere near as solid as Lake Mungo, so maybe just watch that instead.
The leading man's bought some good equipment, so the film he shoots looks pretty sharp in well lit scenes. Night scenes are a bit grainy, but given it's supposed to look like a home movie, that's fine. The transfer is solid, and the film looks like it should.
The audio is available in 2.0, 5.1 or 5.1 DTS mixes. The surround sound is okay judging from what I listened to, but given the movie's style it felt far more authentic with the 2.0 track, so that's how I watched it.
Extra Features
Not much here, so I'm guessing there'll be a double dip edition shortly. As mentioned before, there is an alternate ending. The film also comes with a commentary by writer/director Oren Peli, and it's not a bad listen. Of particular interest are his comments on the film's pacing and why he made the choice to have the film be so slow in the beginning (it is a very valid reason). He also does commentary on the alternate ending. There's a 6 ½ minute fan featurette which is just a slideshow of people who I assume are fans of the movie. This may be the worst extra I've ever seen, and I've seen the deleted scenes from Surf Nazis Must Die.
The Verdict
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
Paranormal Activity has some effective moments and deserves a look, but I wish it was a better movie overall. I assume the Director's Cut will turn up on DVD as soon as this release stops making money, so it might be worth holding out for a more definitive release. The film's presentation is fine here, but when a movie is this successful you know there'll be more extras on a later edition, which makes this disc seem like a fleecing of the fans that need to own it ASAP.

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