Paranormal Activity is the perfect movie for young filmmakers to learn that making a great movie need not be an expensive adventure. Indeed this remarkable film was shot for a paltry $US15,000 but grossed a sensational $US192 million worldwide making it one of the most successful films of all time. Now, the movie is available on Blu-Ray and Australian distributor Icon Films were kind enough to shoot us the disc to review. Here's our verdict...
After a young, middle class couple, Katie and Micah, moves into a suburban 'starter' tract house, they become increasingly disturbed by a presence that may or may not be somehow demonic but is certainly most active in the middle of the night; especially when they sleep. Or try to...
In case you are unaware this 'mockumentary' was filmed for a paltry $US15,000 at most and just goes to prove that film need not have a massive budget for special effects to impress. In fact it's the simplicity of the filming here that makes this film all the better for it. Thank goodness too this film uses a lot of steady cam shots with the camera set up on the tripod to capture the events of each night. They're pretty haunting too. The films starts with some pretty basic stuff, doors moving, the occasional banging noise. After an hour or so, things start to get a little more freaky - not in a gory way - but in more of a tense horror way. I put the tension in a similar vein to that in the first Alien movie. One thing I did have to laugh at though. In a couple of scenes in the movie objects have been blurred out (obviously for Copyright reasons) including a "Dummies" book - we're wondering if it was "Filmmaking for Dummies" - if so, the director Oren Peli, did very well indeed!
I have to say that even with this not being my favoured genre, I quite enjoyed Paranormal Activity. Now I'm not calling it the Schindler's List of horror movies, far from it, but it got the hairs raised on the back of my neck a couple of times and that's what you hope for in a movie of this kind. It's worth checking out.
Paranormal Activity comes to Blu-Ray with a pretty impressive DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track (16-bit/48Khz). Most of the film is fairly quiet with dialogue and the occasional creaky sound effect. Don't expect to be immersed in sound and hear crashing and noises from around you nor can you expect any music during the movie either. What is here though is very eerie when required and on a good sound system, when you start to hear the low rumble, you will get chills down your spine, particularly later in the movie.
The disc also includes a 2 channel Linear PCM audio track encoded at 1.5Mbps which sounds impressive for those with stereo sound only while the only subtitle track is an English Heard of Hearing Subtitle track which seemed pretty accurate to dialogue on-screen with a good, clear, font.
Alternate Versions: We have to point out that this disc gives you to play either the Theatrical or Alternate version of the film. The differences are pretty minimal to say the least, but we preferred the "Theatrical" version so check that one out first.
Alternate Ending (4:54/HD): This ending is quite similar to that in the final film except it lacks the big fright from the final film and is a bit more grotesque. I prefer the theatrical version (which was suggested by Steven Spielberg no less!) but this alternate ending would make you think "why did she do that?" in a good way too. Presented in HD with DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 this is worth a look, and you can also turn on the audio commentary for this delete scenes for some mode detail.
Paranormal Fans (6:30/HD): If you kept an eye on the Australian Icon Films website at the start of the year you may have seen a promotion to upload your photo for inclusion on the Paranormal Activity Blu-Ray. Indeed there are hundreds of photos in this featurette, and yes, if you scan to 4:15 you will see my cat - Bosley!
Review By: Dave Warner