Plot: Katie (Katie Featherstone) has experienced eerie, supernatural encounters since she was a child. She would see dark visions, feel the breath of an unseen force, and her home burned down under mysterious circumstances. This presence has been sporadic in her adult life, but since she moved in with her boyfriend Michah (Micah Sloat), the force has returned. The couple has heard footsteps and other strange noises at night, but no one else is inside. This pushed Micah to purchase a video camera and other recording equipment, as he plans to document these paranormal activities. At first, the camera captures minor things like odd noises and a door moving a little, but the couple still calls in an expert. A man named Fredrichs (Mark Fredrichs) listens to the couple and realizes a demon could be involved, not just mere human spirits. He advises them to contact a demonologist, but Micah decides to handle things himself. Is there a malevolent force stalking Katie and will things continue to escalate?
Entertainment Value: After the success of The Blair Witch Project, found footage horror became a huge trend, but most people believed that kind of viral marketing and massive success wouldn’t replicated in the genre. Paranormal Activity proved those people wrong, convincing countless audience members what they were watching was real and racking up massive box office returns. The minimalist approach taken is what makes this movie feel so real, the rare instances where it tries too hard, it feels false. The ouija scenes for example, prove to ring hollow and disrupt the mood of the movie, whereas the calmer, less flashy scenes bolster the atmosphere. A lot of horror fans dislike that style however, saying that closing doors and strange noises are lazy payoffs, which I can also understand that perspective. I doubt most veteran horror fans will be terrified by this one, but it does offer an interesting take on the genre, that follows the tropes, but ends up a cut above the usual found footage jettison. The performances are fine for the genre, with mostly unlikable characters and since the movie does little to develop them, some of the dread and concern for them is dampened. Paranormal Activity isn’t a horror classic, but it is in the upper tier of found footage horror, a minimalist effort that uses grounded elements to produce solid tension and mood.
No nakedness. Micah tries in vain numerous times to get Katie to have sex on camera, but she denies him at every pass. No blood. A little mild violence, but the movie relies more on subtle noises and smaller scale moments. This approach does make things feel more grounded, which can make it scarier for some viewers, but some horror fans hated the reliance on simple tricks. So if you approach minimalism, you will likely find the tactics used to be effective, whereas if you need a more visceral or blunt approach to get under your skin, you will be let down here. This is either slow burn, incremental style horror or cheap, lazy filmmaking, depending your perspective. The dialogue can be humorous at times, especially since Micah is a such a douche, even when it becomes clear things are escalating. When he learns a demon can feed on negative energy, he says Katie’s mother should come over more to draw the entity out, little moments of douche like that are sprinkled throughout. Micah and Katie are not likable, more annoying if anything, but I always root for the evil presence, so I didn’t mind the shallow, negative characters. No real craziness, this one sticks close to found footage conventions and rarely ventures off the beaten path.
Overall Insanity: 0/10