By Jeffrey Anderson,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Indie scare fest doesn't need blood and gore to terrify.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
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 & Scariness
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.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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What's the Story?
In PARANORMAL ACTIVITY, 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?
Made for a very low budget and with minimal actors and settings, this 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, Paranormal Activity 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.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about the concept of random violence in Paranormal Activity , 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?
- In theaters: September 25, 2009
- On DVD or streaming: 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
- Last updated: June 3, 2023
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