I purposely held out on seeing Paranormal Activity when it first hit theatres because the hype was so loud that I knew I would go into the film wanting to disprove it. Clearly I want to be subjective with every film I see but it is rather tough when people are rampantly claiming it is the scariest movie of all time. I mean did they not see Bride Wars? That movie was easily one of the scariest movies of 2009. Still, I have to give the marketing team for Paranormal credit. Having a trailer that consists of nothing more than showing how people reacted to the movie is pretty ingenious for a horror flick.
The premise of Oren Peli's film is deceptively simple, Katie (Katie Featherstone) and Micah (Micah Sloat) finally get settled in their home when strange things start occurring. The couple is repeatedly awoken on various nights by strange noises and Katie claims that she senses the presence of someone else in their room on certain nights . Micah is sceptical of Katie's paranormal theory and decides to document everything that occurs on video. Micah believes that everything can be explained rationally but, as the couple is increasingly terrorized, the couple must ultimately question both their beliefs and their sanity.
Now did avoiding Paranormal Activity for a lengthy period of time help to bring my usual unbiased ways back to normal? To a great extent, yes. Sure there was that occasional bug buzzing in my ear questioning the validity of the praises in certain scenes. Yet I was still able to appreciate the film for what it was, a fun psychological romp that offers a few brief creepy moments. The actors did a good job making the story believable, which helped to hold my interest for the majority of the film. The reason I think the majority of the film works is because it aims to violate one of our most sacred place...our homes. Most of us have been raised to believe that home is the one place we should feel safe from the horrors of the outside world. Once our home is violated there is truly no secure barriers left. This is why every creak, and every door slamming, is amplified to great effect in the movie.
The problem I had with the Paranormal Activity is that I felt it ran far longer than the material could sustain. There are only so many times a character can say "what was that?" or "Did you hear that?" without providing some sort of payoff. After a while a swinging chandelier and doors moving ever so slightly just do not cut it anymore. Also, there comes a point in the middle act when a very important secret is revealed in regards to events possibly having occurred before. Yet the characters continue to operate as if this information was never given. Sure they make reference to it every now and then but the characters never evolve the way they should have after hearing this information. Instead Peli keeps his characters repeating the same notes over and over. I think the movie would have been much stronger if we saw how the revelation put a far greater strain on the relationship. This would also allow the ending to be far more disturbing than it currently is.
Is Paranormal Activity the scariest film of all time? No. To be honest, I just did not think that Paranormal Activity was all that frightening to begin with I can probably list a dozen or so films that scared me more than this. I will say that I did enjoy the film more than I thought I would. It was far better than My Bloody Valentine 3D and some of the other gore centric horror movies to come out this year. Though if I had to make a list of great horror movies Paranormal Activity would not even make my top twenty.