I forgot to wear my Ghostbusters t-shirt when headed to the 1am screening of Paranormal Activity at the Arclight Hollywood theater. I thought it would show everyone how much of an anti-spirit badass I was, and not like the 16-year old girls cowering and weeping beside me. Though while Paranormal Activity did give me goosebumps, it wasn’t as scary as I had hoped.
You know the premise, and if you don’t, here it is: A couple moves into their first house and starts experiencing supernatural phenomenon. Loud noises, footsteps, etc. The guy in the relationship decides to document everything with a new video camera, setting it up in the bedroom to catch whatever happens when they sleep. What this amounts to is lights flicking on and off, thumping of something coming up stairs and doors swinging open and closed… at first. As the nights go on, the “activity” gets worse, and downright terrifying.
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t tense for the majority of these night scenes, but most of them end without incident. Perhaps that was to help make later scenes pay off bigger, but I felt that there were some missed opportunities. No, I didn’t want a full-on CG demon running through the halls, but more glimpses, scares, etc. would have been nice. I think the lack of attention was due to its indie nature. There’s only so much you can do with shadows, etc.
I also felt the storytelling was a bit weak. As part of the lore in the film, the main female character tells stories about being haunted by a ghost since she was 8… but it never leads anywhere. There could have been a very clever story to explain more of what’s happening, but it seemed less important than going for scares. The lack of rules surrounding what this entity can or cannot do gets thrown out the window near the end, making you wonder why it never did what it ends up doing a long time ago. The ending I saw was a new one, which I believe was re-shot after Paramount acquired the film. The original seems a bit silly and farfetched, and I’m curious to see it (probably on DVD) but the new ending does what you expect a movie of this type to do.
All in all, if you like ghost stories or scary tales, I’d totally recommend catching Paranormal Activity, especially in theaters. You will get creeped out a few times, for sure. And if you can judge this film as a movie made in a week for $15,000 instead of a big-budget Hollywood movie, it’s definitely deserves a lot of respect for capturing my interest and attention.