Top 100 Films #96 Paranormal Activity (2007)

The film that set a new trend of horror of found footage films that are cheap to make but can easily reap back profits but alas was the most effective in its genre. Paranormal Activity is a classic horror that will be appreciated more as time goes by.

Paranormal Activity follows Micah and Katie as they move into a new house and decide to film the whole move. As the days go on, there seems to be some ghostly happenings that spook the couple enough to film themselves while they sleep. It is found out early that ever since Katie was a child she claims that an evil presence follows her.  Paranormal Activity showcases the ‘found videotapes’ and plays them for the audience.

I hate to use this phrase, but this film is a Marmite film that either you love it or hate it. I am a known fan of horror and this at the time was refreshing to see. I prefer the less is more technique and this film definitely has that. There is very little to this film that is overtly scary. That for me is the joy of it, as we see Micah and Katie experience minor disturbances your heart is pumping at an increased rate and you expect something to jump out. The tension throughout this film never lets its guard down. You start to question ever door that closes or lampshade that swings. 5/6th of this film is not that scary in terms of peeing your pants and screaming. However the 5/6th of this film is the most effective. The tense atmosphere is key to the horror of this film.

This part of the film is scary because this is relevant horror to the general public. We can all be scared of aliens or demon killers but after we get out the cinema, we are safe because that is fiction. In Paranormal Activity it relies on horrors in our life that a huge majority of people have experienced or believe in. Ghosts are still a heavily debated topic on whether they are real or not. Have you ever been in a room that has gone instantly cold? Or felt someone touch your leg even though you are alone? Or seen a ghostly figure in the corner of your eye and turn round to it and nothing is there? Well Paranormal Activity plays on these experiences. I knew loads of people that after the cinema struggle to sleep because that’s where all the horror takes place within the film, the bedroom.

This has spawned 5 sequels and hundreds of copycats and where they have failed is they forgot why Paranormal Activity was so effective. It is because of the relevancy of the horror. If a horror studio released a horror called ‘Student Debt’ it would be the scariest horror of all time to people aged 21-25. The sequels do have their merits with new ways to induce horror, such as the fantastic fan-cam in Paranormal Activity 3. However, the original is the best because it was a small film that was limited because of budget and made it more effective. The payoff is also satisfying, even though the ending was changed and had 2 other alternate ending. Surprising they went with the ending that left it open for a sequel.

Found Footage horror is a sub-genre that polarizes audiences because of the wonky camera shots and erratic movements. I am a fan and Paranormal Activity is a perfect example of this. It does share similarities to The Blair Witch Project, but I believe this is a more effective horror because I don’t really go out searching for witches in woods.  The genre has grown tiresome and is about time it laid dormant for a while but it is great to reminisce about the film that kick started the trend of paranormal found footage films.

Paranormal Activity is a fantastic horror that relies more on the audiences own experience and imagination. The audience are so much better at scaring themselves than a filmmaker can do. Paranormal Activity is a contemporary horror classic that in 10-15 years time will be more applauded as soon as you get the horrible taste of that 5th installment they did with the VR out of your mouth.

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