Paranormal Activity (Blu-ray) (2007)

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Released 30-Mar-2010

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Horror Main Menu Audio & Animation
Audio Commentary-Oren Peli (Director)
Short Film-10 fan-made shorts
Alternate Ending
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2007
Running Time 85:26
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Oren Peli
Studio
Distributor
Icon Entertainment Starring Katie Featherston
Micah Sloat
Mark Fredrichs
Amber Armstrong
Ashley Palmer
Case ?
RPI ? Music None Given


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English DTS HD Master Audio 5.1
English Linear PCM 44.1/16 2.0
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

    The Blair Witch Project introduced the world to "found footage" handicam horror; a faux-documentary style that costs virtually nothing to make and whose cheapness only adds to the effectiveness of the storytelling. It also proved that you can make a bucketload of cash by sinking just about all of your miniscule budget into viral marketing rather than the movie itself. Alas, whilst it was a bona fide phenomenon and created an entire sub-genre, The Blair Witch Project itself was an awful movie. What is truly baffling is that, with the arguable exception of cult Spanish flick REC, there really hasn't been a film in this sub-genre to date that has been any more than a gimmick. Admittedly, zero budget handicam horror flicks haven't hit the multiplexes in huge volumes (and the market would probably dry up quickly if they did), but it is surprising that it has taken more than a decade for something as good as Paranormal Activity to come along.

    The story concerns a young lass by the name of Katie (Katie Featherston) and her boyfriend Micah (Micah Sloat - yeah they didn't think too hard on those names) who decide to set up a camcorder in the house after a few nights where they have woken up to find inanimate objects have been moved about. After the first few nights don't show up any prowlers or stray cats, Katie confesses to having felt the presence of something supernatural in her youth. Something that the cameras capture over the course of the next few nights.

    There is virtually no other character involved in the plot, save for a psychic chap they rope in for a couple of scenes and a random female friend of Katie's who appears in barely the one scene. This minimal cast of characters helps keep the film lean and focussed.

    Paranormal Activity is far from flawless, but it is most certainly a genre masterpiece. The film never sets out to be anything more than a string of creepy scenes and cheap scares. The production values are middling (though this arguably helps its cause). The story is rubbish. The acting is worse. None of these faults really matter. Paranormal Activity does what it intends to do exceedingly well. The creepy scenes build the tension up to a point that the cheap scares are terrifying, but offer a level of relief before the tension is cranked up again. Sure, the whole thing is very silly if you want to think about it for terribly long but anyone willing to go on the ride late at night in a dark room will get exactly what they have been promised by the hype.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The film is presented in its theatrical 1.85:1 aspect ratio in 1080p.

    The video on offer looks as good as the film looked theatrically, and likely as good as it ever will look. Alas, this is, quite deliberately, pretty crap. Fitting in with the whole "found footage" vibe, the film was shot on consumer-grade video cameras and very much looks it. Whilst the focus is probably a bit more consistent than your average home movie and they look like they bothered doing a white balance, that's about all the positive things you can say about the video. The image is reasonably soft, features frequent pixelation, occasional frame skips, and frequent motion blur. The night-time shots, filmed in lovely blue-ish night-vision, are particularly murky and grainy (though this arguably adds to the atmosphere).

    For the daytime footage, the colours look somewhat washed out, generally lack fine contrast and occasionally change temperature when excess light gets in frame. Occasional colour banding is visible in the image. The night time shots, which look like blue-tinged black and white, are particularly overexposed whenever light is present.

    Despite everything that looks awful in the video, it genuinely does look as intended. There are no film artefacts are visible in the image and no other artefacts that look like they were introduced in the transfer to Blu-ray. On this basis, the film does not deserve a failing score but cannot be given a particularly high one either. In all honesty, this is one case where Blu-ray resolution and depth adds very little to the film.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The film features a choice of English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and English Linear PCM 2.0 Stereo. I guess these kids had a pretty hot microphone to go with their crappy camera, as they've managed to capture a pretty decent surround audio track. The audio is a good compromise between spooky Hollywood surround and the lo-fi that would be expected from a home movie.

    The dialogue is the part of the film that is most used to convey a lo-fi vibe to the audio. Whilst he dialogue is clear and easy to understand it is noticeably compressed so that it sounds a bit like a home movie.

    The audio is far less bombastic than your average Hollywood pap, but still makes excellent use of the surrounds. There are plenty of carefully directed, creepy creaks and squeaks coming from all over the sound field. The subwoofer is used sparingly, but offers plenty of muffled rumbling and thumping when the situation calls for it.

    Fitting with the "found footage" style, the film has no score.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Audio Commentary by Director Oren Peli

    A reasonably interesting commentary from newcomer director Oren Peli. Plenty of production explanation is included, although the many interesting bits are offset by some uncomfortable silences.

Alternate Ending

    An alternate ending with optional commentary from the director, which can be played back in place of the theatrical ending or separately. This is an unusual instance where meddling (allegedly Steven Spielberg's suggestion) has actually paid off. The original ending is much punchier and caps the whole film off nicely. This alternate ending drags affairs on with a moderately creepy, but ultimately tiresome conclusion.

Paranormal Activity Fans Featurette/Slideshow

    Seven minutes of images of fans of the film. Utterly pointless.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    A clear winner for UK Region B, which features 10 fan-made short films, each a finalist in a UK competition that was held to promote the film, in place of the pointless fan images on the Australian Region B release.

The US Region A Blu-ray edition of Paranormal Activity misses out on the commentary and fan shots, but gains nothing that is not found on the Region B editions.

Summary

    Paranormal Activity is everything it claims to be, nothing more and nothing less; a string of cheap scares, best enjoyed late at night with the lights off.

    The transfer to Blu-ray is flawless but the film never looked great to begin with as it was shot on consumer-grade video. The audio is decent, however. The extras are reasonable in number but a mixed bag.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Adam Gould (Totally Biolicious!)
Thursday, April 29, 2010
Review Equipment
DVDSony Playstation 3, using HDMI output
DisplayOptoma HD20 Projector. Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderPioneer VSX2016AVS. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials.
AmplificationPioneer VSX2016AVS
Speakers150W DTX front speakers, 100W centre and 4 surround/rear speakers, 12 inch PSB Image 6i powered sub

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add)
Short films extra? - Sean Brady
Clarification - Le Messor (bio logy class) REPLY POSTED
where are the short films? - Trevor REPLY POSTED
Short films - Sean Brady