Paranormal Activity has become this generation’s Blair Witch Project due to its “found footage” premise, and Demand It internet campaign that turned an indie film with a limited release into a nationwide phenomenon. The DVD boasts a “shocking” alternate ending and little else, thankfully the movie’s so great or else audiences would turn their nose up.
Focusing on a young couple coping a demon, the movie piles on the scary using little CGI and several natural effects. The horror comes from watching things like footprints appear out of baby powder and dark shadows cross a moving door, showing that simple movements can have the biggest scare factor. The two leads played, by newcomers Micah Sloat and Katie Featherston, are both genuinely real and, at certain points, terrifying as events happen to them. The film does have a tendency to go into parody and become a bit heavy-handed, mainly to how Micah constantly feels to the need to be the alpha male and solve the problem with the ghost, mainly making things worse in the process, but that’s not to limit the horror. Whether you believe in spirits or not this movie will scare you on some level.
Both the Blu-Ray and DVD tout the typical “director’s cut” with alternate ending while the only exclusive on the Blu-Ray is a digital copy. Having purchased the DVD it’s fairly lackluster. In watching the director’s cut I didn’t notice anything additional at all, it played like the regular theatrical cut (and I saw it twice) so if this is a “director’s cut” it’s pretty much what you saw on screen. The alternate ending is widely available on YouTube so if you haven’t seen it, then the DVD will satisfy your craving. There are rumors that director Steven Spielberg urged director Oren Peli to change the ending, making it “scarier” for audiences and thanks Steven because you save the entire movie from ruin. If you haven’t seen the alternate ending, skip it on the DVD because it changes the entire tone of everything presented in the film. SPOILERS **Said ending follows Katie after she has murdered Micah, having her sit for two days in a catatonic, possessed state, only to come out of it and walks towards the police with a knife. Said police shoot her, while a light comes on down the hall only to have nothing there! ** END SPOILERS. If you’ve seen the film and then watch this ending it’s two completely different tones and would have merely made the audience ask, “Then what the hell was the point of the whole movie?” The digital copy that comes on the Blu-Ray is the only other feature and if you want to enjoy this movie on a road trip, it’s worth it. Overall it’s very surprising that a featurette of some sort wasn’t included, considering the movie’s extremely small budget, or that a feature on its success didn’t come out. Wasted potential on a movie that turned the nation on its ear.
Paranormal Activity is a fantastic movie, the DVD is merely needed so you can watch it alone during a rainy night. Don’t check this out for the features as the alternate ending is not shocking at all, merely tedious and stupid. If you want to travel with it, grab the Blu-Ray.