Thanks to wonderful friend who writes for, I was able to attend a screening of the much hyped Paranormal Activity . Tho...

Paranormal Activity Brings the Thrills

Thanks to wonderful friend who writes for, I was able to attend a screening of the much hyped Paranormal Activity. Though it was called the “scariest movie of the year” by LA Weekly, I'm sorry to say that my expectations of this film may have exceeded the reality.

Paranormal Activity documents the experiences of Katie and Micah, a happy couple haunted by a demonic spirit and capitalizes on the success of its handicam horror predecessors, such as the Blair Witch Project and [REC]. When I first saw Blair Witch and fell for the whole “this is a true story” malarkey, it scared the bejesus out of me. But knowing that this film isn’t the found footage of true life events; the effect was less than true terror.

Another reason for this let down is that most of the film’s scarier moments are given away in the trailer. The moving sheet, what we later find out is Micah’s body hitting the camera, the cloven hoofprints and slamming doors are all revealed before you step in the theater. Watching the events on screen, you know what’s coming which really takes you out of the film.

The one moment I truly enjoyed was in the film’s final scene. Katie is already under the influence of the demon and stands for hours watching her boyfriend toss and turn in his sleep. Calm as anything, she descends the staircase into darkness and out of the range of the camera’s ever watchful eye. Once downstairs, she begins screaming for help and Micah jumps out of bed to answer her cries. A titanic struggle ensues and Micah’s screams mingle with more inhuman sounds.

All is still except for the thudding footsteps of someone or something coming up the stairs a moment before Micah’s body flies out of the darkness and hits the camera. We then see Katie standing in the doorway, her white tank top smeared with Micah’s blood. The fact that you can’t see the struggle or Micah’s death makes it more horrifying and will satisfy fans who appreciate more subtle horror along the lines of Val Lewton’s Cat People.

Aside from the thrill factor, Paranormal Activity doesn’t have much to contribute the genre of ghost horror. Like most haunting/possession films (The Exorcism of Emily Rose, An American Haunting) Paranormal Activity deals with male fears of female sexuality. The demon causing the paranormal events has attached itself to Katie and as Micah takes a survey of the couple’s bedroom he comments that “most of the activity goes on here” The audience laughs out loud at his double entendre as both the paranormal activity and the couple’s sexual activity occur in the same place, the bed.

The demon’s attack on Katie is outright sexual as it drags her out of her bed caveman-style to a bedroom on the other side of the house. Katie’s screams awaken Micah who goes after her and struggles with her unseen attacker. Katie’s reaction afterward is like that of rape victim as Micah films the bite marks the beast has left on Katie’s torso. This is also around the time that Katie starts to transform into the demon herself.

In some of the film’s more entertaining moments, it shows the impotency of men against the threat of female sexuality represented by the haunting. Micah is constantly trying to “fix” the haunting by using a Ouija board, filming the paranormal events (which like in Peeping Tom can be associated with the penetrative male gaze) and researching demons (with his Dover Thrift Edition of demonology). But as Katie points out, all of Micah’s efforts to fix what is wrong with her have only made things worse and the paranormal activity escalates. Even the male psychic hired by the couple to investigate the haunting is powerless against it and leaves when he senses the demon is angry with his presence.

Katie’s transformation into a she-demon was much too short for my taste and the acting did leave something to be desired. DreamWorks has already purchased the film, including rights for the remake and they might fix those problems the second time around. Paranormal Activity is good for few cheap thrills, but expecting any more than that may leave you disappointed.


  1. I can't wait to see this! Double feature time along w/ Zombieland tomorrow. Wooh, wooh!

  2. Damn, it's still not in my neck of the woods!

  3. OK, saw this last night. My only gripe is Micah got thorougly annoying after awhile. But i will say the ending had the single greatest payoff of any horror movie I've seen in the last 20 years.

    Great analysis of the film.

  4. I haven't met anyone who hasn't thought of this movie as the scariest in a decade. Seriously, any critic out there that says otherwise leads me to believe that they're just trying to stand out, in what should be consistent good scare reviews across the board.

  5. Christofer,

    My review is indeed honest and not a effort on my part to stand out. To tell the truth, I am conflicted when it comes to my feelings on Paranormal Activity. I give the film it's props and it brought the thrills for me, but on a thematic level it doesn't have that much to offer.

    As a discerning critic I need more meat on my horror movies for them to truly satisfy my appetite. I was also dissatisfied with what the film ends up saying about female sexuality and other-ness. Women are still the monster, which as a woman myself I have a problem taking lightly.



  6. I really don't see where all the "this is mocking female sexuality" feelings come from. If it had instead been the male that had become demonized and had done what happened to the male at the end, it would have been a major controversy (just like this apparently is) due to "symbolic of the typical male dominance over females" and about "the male brutalizing the woman at the end".

    I think that is a false way to look at it. I don't feel the filmmakers were in any way trying to make some political statement about sexuality or anything to that nature. I think its the fact that a few things wouldn't be as scary without her as the one. Like in the remade ending, we are so accustomed to seeing male creatures with brute strength that seeing instead the female lead just launch the male so viciously is a shock to our system. Its something different.