Movie Reviews

bellview--i love movies

Home | Movie Reviews | Video Roundups | Essays | Game Reviews | Subscribe | Mailbag | About | Search

Movie Awards
2004 Roundup
2005 Roundup
2006 Roundup
2007 Roundup
2008 Roundup
2009 Roundup


"Paranormal Activity"

Directed by Oren Peli.
Written by Oren Peli.
Starring Katie Featherston and Micah Sloat.

Release Year:  2009
Review Date:  10/30/09


Talk about a wacky phenomenon--"Paranormal Activity" even managed to crush the most recent "Saw" release when it went wide a week ago.  This is pretty amazing, given how unbelievably terrible "Paranormal Activity" is.  But, I am not a hater--I give credit where credit is due, and the people responsible for marketing this film have helped writer/director Oren Peli get mega-rich, mega-quick, without even a decent film to back up the campaign.

Full disclosure--any time you see a movie AFTER the big hype, you are more susceptible to come in like I did and say, "hey, I need to see this to know what the fuss is all about."  Second full disclosure--with its lack of big scares and foreshadowing so blatant the ending is handed to us mid-film, you should feel comfortable taking your "fraidy cat" significant other to a film like this because it is strangely unscary.

Rating R for language, "Paranormal Activity" follows a couple (played by Katie Featherston and Micah Sloat) who is haunted by a demon that blows around in their suburban home.  In order to address the situation, Micah decides to videotape their bedroom every night to see if they can catch a glimpse of the demon...and, well, they do, but in the form of little things (at first) like wind blowing around in a room, or a door moving a few inches.  Each day they review the previous night's tape, and talk about how freaky all of it is, and then they go to bed, only to watch things get worse.

Movies like "Cloverfield" and "Quarantine" help "Paranormal Activity" get a lot of mileage out of the "Even Though We Are in Real Danger, Make Sure You Lug That Camera Around at All Times" model, and that also makes the movie a real snoozer.  I fell asleep twice during the film's first 30 minutes, a problem that "Quarantine" had as well; we only have two actors to follow around, neither of which is very interesting; we know that nothing is going to happen during the daytime, so that makes 75% of the movie uninteresting.  The gimmick of taping each night's action is cool until you realize that you are going to have to watch the couple watch the tape each day, milking another ten minutes out of your life.

There were two kinda spooky moments in "Paranormal Activity"; I know of one, and for the other, it was mainly spooky because it literally woke me up out of a 2-3 minute nap.  (My friend Rodney confirmed for me later that this really was a little spooky for those that were awake, so don't mind me.)  The idea of having the demon make a noise each time it was around didn't work for me; I would have preferred no noise/no music to make each entry into the room that much more scary.

Honestly, even if I saw this three weeks before it got to theaters, it wouldn't have changed anything for me--its biggest problem was that I don't have a fear of the dark, and I think that's important in a film like this...worse, it just wasn't very interesting.  It doesn't set a mood like "The Blair Witch Project" did, you aren't given a reason to believe any of this could happen, and there wasn't a single horror "jump" moment in the movie.  (Hell, even most PG-13 horror movies have something that at least makes me jump!)  Even the pixelated faces in the trailer for "The Fourth Kind" freak me out more than anything in "Paranormal Activity."  But, again, kudos to the marketing people for this movie--great job of selling a product that ultimately didn't deliver for me.

Rating:  Rental


Comments?  Drop me a line at


Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

Home | Movie Reviews | Video Roundups | Essays | Game Reviews | Subscribe | Mailbag | About | Search

The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 11/05/09