Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (January 28, 2010)
If you want to find the most profitable release of 2009, look no further than Paranormal Activity. Made a few years earlier for a budget of only $15,000, the flick went on to gross a remarkable $107 million in the US. That means the movie made more than 7000 times its cost!
Profitability was only one of the reasons Activity hearkened back to 1999’s Blair Witch Project, another super-cheap horror flick that acted as an obvious inspiration. In Activity, we meet day trader Micah (Micah Sloat) and his live-in college student girlfriend Katie (Katie Featherston). Micah sets up a special new video camera to catch the goings-on in their bedroom.
But not for horn-dog reasons. Some strange occurrences have been popping up at night. Katie believes supernatural forces operate here, so the skeptical Micah wants to capture them on tape. Matters escalate as the alleged spirits became bolder, actions that make the young couple to become even more fearful and anxious.
That synopsis makes it sound like something actually happens during Activity, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, the movie features exceedingly little action. Much of the time, we just see Micah and Katie sleeping, and when they’re not in bed, they’re arguing about what’s happening and what to do about it. Sequences in which supernatural forces make any kind of appearance don’t happen very often, and when they do pop up, they’re pretty darned dull. We hear a lot of stomping and see some doors close but little else.
All of this would be fine if Activity worked to create a mood of tension or fear. Unfortunately, the only feelings the film provokes are sheer, total boredom. It’s never tense, never scary, never creepy, never anything other than vaguely annoying, mostly due to that schmuck Micah.
Here's much of the movie:
Micah: "You hear that, babe?"
Katie: "Did you see that?"
Micah: "I saw that, babe!"
Katie: "I heard that!"
Or we get scenes such as this:
Katie: "I'm scared!"
Micah: "I'll fix it, babe - this is my house, babe!"
Katie: "Don't go up there, Micah!"
Micah: "I'm going up there, babe!"
Katie: "Don't go down there, Micah!"
Micah: "I'm going down there, babe!"
Katie: "Don't go in there, Micah!"
Micah: "I'm going in there, babe! This is my house – I’ll fix this!"
And so on, and so on. Micah should go down as one of cinema’s all-time most irritating characters. He’s a full of himself prick with few – if any – redeeming qualities. At least Katie is more pleasing, largely because Featherston is absolutely gorgeous. Neither she nor Sloat seems to have much acting talent, but I hope she shows up in something else just because she’s so easy on the eyes.
Featherston is literally the only positive aspect of Paranormal Activity. For the life of me, I can’t figure out why this dull, tedious film earned such rave reviews. I appreciate its attempts to avoid obvious shocks/scares, but the problem is that it goes too far in the other direction. In its pursuit of subtlety, it forgot to give us anything interesting. That makes it a complete dud.