Paranormal Activity

  • Review Date: October 7, 2009
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Horror
  • Release Year: 2009
  • Running Time: 99 minutes

Common Sense Media says

Indie scare fest doesn't need blood and gore to terrify.
  • Review Date: October 7, 2009
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Horror
  • Release Year: 2009
  • Running Time: 99 minutes

Age(i)

2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17

Quality(i)

 

What parents need to know

Positive messages

The main characters' plight is unexplained -- they don't seem to have done anything to "deserve" what they go through. Unfortunately, they also can't agree on the methods or approaches to deal with it, and so most of their work is for naught. But they demonstrate some definite bravery in standing up to the beast.

Positive role models

Micah isn't much of a role model, despite his bravery in trying to face and fight the demon. He constantly disagrees and argues with Katie and often refuses to listen when she asks him for help. He tries to fight the demon in an aggressive, physical way, even though it's clear that it's not going to work. But on the plus side, Katie exhibits definite courage, strength, and good humor in the face of her harrowing problem.

Violence

A simmering violence constantly threatens but rarely cuts loose onscreen -- there's actually very little physical violence, with only the tiniest hint of blood or gore. Micah and Katie argue often.

Sex

A young adult couple that lives together talks and jokes about sex fairly often. They both walk around the house in sleeping clothes, consisting of boxer shorts, T-shirts, and tank tops. A female guest shows off her bare midriff. The camera sometimes emphasizes Katie's ample cleavage. The couple has sex one time, but it happens off camera.

Language

Very liberal use of "f--k" in all its variations, including name-calling (directed toward the invading demon). Other words include "s--t," "ass," "hell," "damn," and "Oh my God." Micah raises his middle finger, twice, in a joking manner.

Consumerism
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

The couple opens a bottle of wine at dinnertime in an early scene, but we don't really see them drinking it.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Paranormal Activity is a real chill-up-the-spine movie that's bound to induce nightmares in plenty of young moviegoers -- even though, as with The Blair Witch Project, the big buzz around the movie (and the prospect of testing their backbone) will likely prove irresistible to many teens. The movie takes its cues from many classic horror films in that it only suggests the scary stuff rather than actually showing explicit gore and violence -- but in leaving much to the viewer's imagination, the effect is much, much more psychologically terrifying than any regular blood-fest. Expect frequent strong language (including multiple uses of "f--k" and "s--t") and some sex talk.

Parents say

Kids say

What's the story?

Micah (Micah Sloat) brings home a deluxe video camera and starts filming himself and his girlfriend Katie (Katie Featherston) in their large San Diego house. It seems that unseen forces have been terrifying them while they sleep, and Micah hopes to gather evidence. A psychic (Michael Bayouth) warns them that the trouble is probably caused by a demon -- one specifically targeting Katie -- and that they need professional help. But Micah wants to keep filming and work the problem out by themselves. Unfortunately, the disturbances begin to grow more and more alarming.

Is it any good?

QUALITY
 

Made for a very low budget and with minimal actors and settings, PARANORMAL ACTIVITY is an effective horror movie that's more dependent on ideas than on spectacle or gore. Like horror classics ranging from Cat People (1942) to The Haunting (1963) to The Blair Witch Project, it suggests its terrors rather than explicitly showing them, which leaves far more to the imagination -- and sends more genuine chills up the spine.

The well-paced daytime scenes are comparatively relaxing as Micah and Katie try to figure out their dilemma, but the nighttime scenes offer something spookier. The couple sleeps in a static wide shot; the bed, the doorway, and part of a hallway are visible. The scary part can be a sound or an image, but it can originate from anywhere within the frame; the movie always keeps viewers off guard. Some of the characters' behavior can grate, but that's a minor quibble in an otherwise satisfying, terrifying experience.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the concept of random violence, as in the demon's seemingly meaningless attacks on Katie. What would cause someone or something to strike out without a reason? How would this make a person feel?

  • How scary was the movie? What scared you most, and why? How did you feel about being scared?

  • What would be the effect of constantly filming your life?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:September 25, 2009
DVD release date:December 29, 2009
Cast:Katie Featherston, Micah Sloat, Michael Bayouth
Director:Oren Peli
Studio:Paramount Pictures
Genre:Horror
Run time:99 minutes
MPAA rating:R
MPAA explanation:language

This review of Paranormal Activity was written by

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are conducted by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

About our rating system

  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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Quality

Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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What parents and kids say

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Written byAnonymous August 7, 2013
AGE
13
QUALITY
 

Mediocre film

This movie was very mediocre. A lot of it is made up by loud noises and opening and closing doors. It's just not very scary and the acting was average. Some bits were just stupid and unrealistic and one scene was actually funny. What my dad made me realise is it might not even be based on true events. My dad said that it has been proved people have been saying things happened at their house and it was just made up so keep it in your mind that it may not even be true.
What other families should know
Too much swearing
Adult Written bynti757 November 8, 2009
AGE
17
QUALITY
 

How this movie made it to the screen is unbelievable

This movie is waste of your time.....
Teen, 14 years old Written byIronZombie75 November 3, 2009
AGE
13
QUALITY
 

Extremely Scary!

Okay this movie does not have any blood, gore, or violence (brief gory excorcism from afar off computer screen) no sex, no drugs, no consumerism, but what it does have, is EXTREME TERROR!! Warning parents: this movie is so scary, that even you won't be able to sleep for days! I saw it at night, and it is horrifying. Other than that and the language, its okay.
What other families should know
Too much swearing
Teen, 14 years old Written byMikaylaaMadisonn November 26, 2009
AGE
13
QUALITY
 
Such a great movie! Very creepy all the way through! And the final scene.....Woah.

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