Made for a measly $15,000 and filmed over one week, Paranormal Activity is “the next thing” in ultra-low-budget moviemaking. Paranormal Activity is a film that is hard to talk about without ruining anything for you, so this review will focus more on the technical aspects rather than the film itself. Still, I recommend seeing it before you continue reading.
The shaky-cam view isn’t nearly as prevalent as you might think; a large portion of the movie has static shots, with the camera sitting on a large tripod. These static shots aid in the effectiveness of the film. On the rare occasion that you actually see something rather than just hear it, it is almost always done with a static shot. Not only does this force you to look directly at what is happening on screen, but it makes you feel much more like an observer. For this reason, I don’t think the atmosphere is as heavy as it could have been…but you will still find yourself feeling slightly dazed when you leave the theater. The cinematography is simple, yet very effective.
Sound plays a huge role in this film. It seemed to me that the foley guy had an absolute blast, as some of the noises heard through the film are very strange indeed. A number of them were very hard to place, and overall they sounded genuine and unique. Due to the static position of the camera throughout much of the “events”, most of the sound comes from the front, and surround sound is hardly utilized at all. This is a shame, because some of the noises heard throughout the film would have gone from freaky to “holy hell what was that” with some surround mixing. The loss of surround sound is unfortunately a result of the static camera angles…overall, I think it was a worthwhile tradeoff. As someone who grew up in a house with…something…living in it, I am happy to say that they captured the tension and feeling of dread that can occur.
Unlike the film Paranormal Activity is most compared to (Blair Witch Project), it doesn’t take long for things to start happening. Our first “encounter” occurs not even 8 minutes into the film, and things slowly ramp up only to get worse and worse from there. The special effects are very low-budget, however EXTREMELY realistic. Due to the nature of what goes on, the few scenes with special effects were likely quite easy to make, and easy to keep realistic. For example, in one scene you know that there had to be wires or something like that causing an object to move; however, it’s done so well, it looks entirely real.
While I think calling it the scariest film ever made is really pushing it, Paranormal Activity was delectably creepy. I highly recommend this one to anyone who is a fan of scary movies, or just wants a change of pace from the action-packed crap Hollywood has been pushing for the past 15 years.