Paranormal Activity: Is it the scariest movie ever made??

Posted on 15 October 2009 by ShepRamsey

Is Paranormal Activity the scariest movie ever made?  Is it?  I keep hearing things!  A lot of people seem to think this movie’s the real deal, and it’s created so much nationwide hype and demand that it’s become a genuine phenomenon and the first movie to ever have its release decided bparanormal_activityy audiences who really, really want to see it.

And the audiences did indeed speak quite loudly.  Last week, Paranormal Activity hit the 1,000,000 demands that it needed to see its very own nationwide theatrical release, and will be expanding nice and wide starting Friday, October 16.  Not only that, last weekend, the film managed to climb up to the number 4 spot at the box office, playing on only a mere 160 screens.  I had the honor and privilege of being inside one of those 160 packed-house movie theaters last weekend, for a showing of the film, to see if there was any justification to the massive hype.

And so, I return to my initial question: Is Paranormal Activity the scariest movie ever made?  Is it?  Is it??

Well, it’s subjective, really, but I’m sure you’ll be pleased to hear that it is, in fact, a skillfully scary little flick—and one that requires being seen in a movie theater.  I can’t stress this enough.  If you decide to wait for DVD on this one, and watch it on some regular-sized TV screen with Sunday afternoon daylight pouring in through your window and birds chirping outside, then you might as well not watch it at all.  There’s simply no point.

For anyone who hasn’t been brushed by the flurry of hype around this movie, Paranormal Activity is a Blair Witch-style documentation of a young couple, Katie and Micah, who decide to try and investigate a possible ghost that has been following Katie since she was young.  They set up a camera in their bedroom, turn on the night-vision, and go to sleep to try and capture any strange occurrences that might happen in the night.

And as this is a horror movie that is being touted as the scariest thing since the invention of fear, then I’m clearly not spoiling anything by telling you that their suspicions are not without merit.  And whatever it is that is inhabiting their home with them, filming it is just making it angrier.paranormalactivity1

And cue the scary shit.

When I saw the trailer and when I sat down in the theater to watch the movie, I was entirely certain that this movie would not—could not—scare me.  I essentially knew everything that was going to happen—and happen it all did.  It’s a reasonably predictable film.  Doors open, things that shouldn’t move on their own do anyway, and there’s lots of bumps in the night.  Everything that you think might happen in a movie with a title as up-front as Paranormal Activity happens.  And yet it’s still unbelievably scary!  Why the hell is that??

Director Oren Peli turns this fact—that we, the horror movie audience, pretty much know what’s going to be happening—and turns it into one of the film’s greatest assets.  Every scare in the movie is elongated to grueling lengths as we sit in aching suspense, practically begging for the bad shit to just happen already.

To boot, he makes much better use out of the limited coverage of the camcorder horror movie than The Blair Witch Project ever did.  Peli knows that the audience’s imagination is about a hundred times scarier than anything he could actually show—or even tell—us.  For much of the film’s horrifying nighttime sequences, the camera sits immobile in the bedroom as the terror occurs elsewhere in the house, leaving us to only hear and guess at what might be going on.

And it’s in this aspect where Paranormal Activity finds its true stroke of genius.  The most brilliant element of the inner-workings of this film—what instantly alerted me out of my “this won’t scare me” attitude—is the film’s sound design.  The constant low drone of the house, eerily punctuated by bumps and crashes and footsteps, is monstrously creepy, and it can get pretty damn exhausting.

It’s a terrific testament to how unbelievably effective a film’s sound can be, especially since the movie has no over-the-top music cues to let you know wheparanormalactivityn you’re supposed to be scared.  You’ll know damn well all by yourself just when to be scared.  This film is wholly worthy of Oscar nominations for sound editing and mixing, and if the hype keeps blowing up, it may likely get them.

Also noteworthy—because no one else seems to be giving the deserved credit—are the performances of the two leads.  I’ve heard multiple critics going after the performances in this movie, and it seems such an easy target for a film operating on a budget as low as this (a mere $11,000).  You don’t tend expect much out of amateur actors, but the two leads of this film are both really, really good and convincing.  Unlike Blair Witch, whose characters were loathsome, bitchy student filmmakers, the characters in Paranormal Activity are actual characters—real people, likable people.  They do some very stupid things, but they are all stupid things that real people would actually do.

So yes, friends, Paranormal Activity is the real deal.  It’s a big, fun, and insanely scary little film that should be seen in a theater and as soon as possible.  If for no other reason, I would suggest seeing it before legions of overzealous fans ruin it for everyone.  (I would cite Napoleon Dynamite, but I never liked that movie in the first place.)  Just see it, and while you’re at it go out and buy Drag Me to Hell on DVD, and be thankful that there are still a few people out there making genuinely worthwhile horror movies.  And then cry next week when Saw VI comes out and ruins the track record…of two.                           

Categorized | Reviews

31 Comments For This Post

  1. Rachel Says:

    I’m sold. I can’t wait to see it!!!!!!!!!!

  2. ParryOtter Says:

    I completely agree– it was so much fun! And yet, not.

    The sound was creepy as hell, and had that ominous, pulsating feel that made me think of David Lynch movies and reading Don DeLillo’s White Noise.

  3. Cincigal4 Says:

    I AGREE!!! Just saw it tonight with my daughter as out traditional Scary, Halloween movie trip we see every year and this was GREAT!!! I have to admit, I’m a little edgy tonight. I think it gets you more after you see the movie in my opinion.

  4. ParryOtter Says:

    Agreed. I’ve been more edgy the week after I saw this than the night after…can’t get rid of it!!

  5. Peter K Says:

    LOL! you people are as ignorant and dim witted as the person who wrote this article…the movie was all hype, nothing more…it was not scary and if you think it was, something is seriously wrong with you. You all fell into Hollywood’s trap…already the majority are changing their minds on the movie and saying two thumbs down, it was nothing more than hype and bad acting…get a life people!

  6. ShepRamsey Says:

    To be fair, the likeliest reason that people are “changing their minds” about this movie is because a lot of people in the internet community love to rally around movies that are small and generally unknown almost as much they love to trash things that are very popular. I have yet to hear of any negative reception for this movie, but the fact that one apparently exists is of no surprise to me. It’s not a reflection on the movie itself at all–just all the people who love to try and shit on everyone’s good time.

    Personally, I greatly enjoyed the movie and I feel that I made my reasons why very clear in my article. You don’t seem to have a rebuttal for any of them, and part of me is doubting whether or not you even read it.

    I thought this was a great example of bare-bones creepy filmmaking and an altogether very well-made horror movie, and it seems you’re trying to tell me that either a) no I didn’t think that, or b) I’m ignorant and there’s something “seriously wrong” with me because I did. Horror is the most subjective of genres. Whether or not something is scary isn’t fact or false–it’s purely in the mind of the audience member, so finding the movie scary doesn’t exactly make any of us “ignorant” or “dim-witted,” it just means we have different taste than you. If this movie didn’t scare you, then I’m very happy for you. Personally, though, I haven’t yet talked face-to-face with anyone who has seen the film and wasn’t at least a little bit creeped out by it.

    So go right ahead and LOL at all of us, kiddo. As far as I’m concerned, it was a very good movie. I won’t state my reasons for saying this again, so if you have any interest, you’ll just have to read the article.

  7. matt Says:

    I saw this friday night and it REALLY creeped me out. I was so glad I had someone to snuggle with. Last night i wasn’t as fortunate and I had done a great job not thinking of the movie all day, but then when I crawled into bed it just made me think about it. I pulled the covers over my head, why, I don’t know. They wouldn’t have helped much had it come for me… lol. Really good movie…

  8. tyler Says:

    Well said shep. I have had this same argument on the Paranormal Activity face book page with these “internet renegades” for a couple of days now, and my arguement was almost word for word with yours. Again well said.

  9. Iero Says:

    freaky scary. laughed at the Saw movies, cried at the end of Dawn of the Dead. This movie had me curled up in my seat.

  10. Dennis Says:

    Why is it that people are even TRYING to bash this movie? They obviously weren’t watching the same movie I was….. Paranormal Activity was easily the scariest movie released in the past 20 years, if not ever…. in my opinion only second to Exorcist, if that.

  11. tom Says:

    Stfu Peter K
    i havent seen it but u sound like a dikk so kiss my big blak ass u twat and you get a fukin life u titwank
    wat a dik
    who agrees wiv me???

  12. Wanker Says:

    I completely agree with you tom he sounds like a dickhead and he needs to go and get a life and fuck himself I feel like gettin a baseball bat and smashing his brains out and I feel like fuckin his mother in front of him man

  13. fout Says:

    thax everyone and was fourth kind scary

  14. extrasensory Says:

    really nicee, i was looking for this

  15. supranormal Says:

    thanks dude for great info

  16. sawyergirl Says:

    WARNING: DO NOT WATCH PARANORMAL ACTIVITY IF YOU TEND TO FALL ASLEEP EASILY!!!I fought sleep the entire movie. Wish I had that idea when I was a teenager living in an old house in the country….I might be rich today. Had LOTS scarier stuff going on there.

  17. JASMINE Says:

    its fucking frakky……. you’ll die i swear… i couldnt watch its so sad that that could happen to someone!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1 YOU HAVE TO SEE IT TRUST ME!!!

  18. kay n emma Says:

    wat a pile of crap.werent even scary.wat a waste of money.the scary thing was i had to pay to see it.

  19. ariane Says:

    lol @ kay n emma
    actually my father’s watching it now. i wanna watch it but my father DIDN’T ALLOW ME!! because he told me he should watch it first because he said IM ONLY 14 (only 14?!! wtf?) anyway, i wish it’s not a crap i wish i can’t sleep tonight after i watch it.

  20. Movies Aren't Scary Says:

    There are no scary movies anymore. Once you grow up, you stop getting scared of them. At least I did. I think my brain my not be normal, if others get scared that easily. When you have experienced these same things in real life….NOW THAT’S WHAT will really scare you. These movies are fake..and none of them can scare me. New movies are boring. I like old movies better. The only movie that ever scared me in my life was Nightmare on Elm St. part 1…and now I just think the movie is funny but as a kid I was afraid of it. So, being a kid makes a lot of difference. I know I am not alone when I say this.

  21. jEN Says:

    STUPID MOVIE. =( deeply disappointed. I can’t believe you people who actually were creeped out. I have watched way too many paranormal shows to find any of this believable. I watched it in the dark, alone, and still no effect. I actually laughed out loud at certain parts. Some of the scenes were just not beievable, for instance, if a guy really lost his girlfriend in a dark house after she has had a demon chasing her for years, I doubt he would pick up his camera before looking for her. I have seen better special effects on the disney channel. To be honest, “The Grudge” was scarier.

  22. lacey Says:

    i liked it i knew right away that it was fake. but it didnt keep me from getting nervous in some scenes . the main thing is what the OP said you know something is going to happen its the suspense that gets you oh and ………………………… SPOILER………………..
    the parts where she gets up and just stairs at him and they ff so you see she was like that for hours just creepy lol

  23. Tori Says:

    I watched it last night and it was pretty freaky. I did lots of research and the movie is NOT real. Wow technology nowadays is crazy!!!! If you are scared of posessed people and people being dragged out of bed and dragged down a hall, then it will be scary for you.

  24. Saysay Says:

    i agree with PeterK, if you were scared of that movie, you are SAD. i was 11 when i saw it, and i was laughing cause it was SOOO dumb, sure if you were in that situation and it was REAL, then maybe you would be scared, but the movie is NOT REAL. i dont care what they tell you. maybe it is just me since ive seen much scarier movies. the ring creeped me out more than this movie! people that actually think this movie is good and scary must get easily scared. just saying. (:

  25. Stupid Movie Says:


  26. the truth Says:

    the truth is that the movie sucked to high heaven and do you notest that people who blog and dont like what someone says are very violent, now thats scary many monsters are in this world and most are human!

  27. Heathcliffe Says:

    Well I have seen many horror films and I have to admit that nothing comes close to ghost films when it comes to the fear factor. I think this is the same with many people. I watched White Noise 2 a couple of years ago and I have to say that it was probably the most frightening film I have seen in my life. This is for two reason, 1.) It was incredibly jumpy to the point where you were worried about your ticker packing in, 2.) It is based on a phenomena that actually happens in real life. Give the average Joe a $3000 camera and a nice big house to film in and I am confidednt that some smart directors out there would blow paranormal activity out of the water. It would be silly to call PA a bad movie but I wouldn’t say it is the scariest or the best ghost movie ever. Scariest for me has to be White Noise 2 and the best is probably the 6th sense. Have a nice day folks.


  28. llcoolj Says:

    I think the only people who think this is poorly made and non scary film, are the sort of people who only see black and white and have no belief in the world beyond what they see. People who have a belief in any type of religion and can look beyond what we see in day to day life would have to say, this movie is without a doubt the most chilling and realistic doco/horror film of our time.. Any person with the fear of god would find this movie truly disturbing and would have great difficulty sleeping for at least a month… It totally depends on your outlook on life..


  29. TheParanormal Says:

    I just saw it , i think is scary movie, the best part is the foot steps coming up to the room. I know is low buget and not base on a true story, but watch it at night.

  30. zacharia khalifaa Says:

    Taylor Gang or watch paranormal activity in your bedroom (at night).


  31. Hungergames11 Says:

    Paranormal activity is the scariest movie ever and if you dont think its scary you either never saw it or you are lying

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