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March 29, 2010
Paranormal Activity Blu-Ray Review
Cinema Release Blu-Ray Release Distributor Director
3/12/20092/4/2010Icon FilmsOrin Peli
Video Codec Sound Format OFLC Rating Star(s)
AVC MPEG-4DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1MKatie Featherston

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When the lights go out... expect Paranormal Activity!

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!

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Katie and Micah in happy times...
If there is a criticism it has to be the 'stupidity' of the two characters in this movie. So you're house is haunted and you hear noises downstairs. What's the first thing you would do? Now I'm betting that 95% of you would have said turn on the lights. But nooo... In this film they just grab the camera and run around looking at the weird shit happening. So, yar, it's obviously done for the effect of the movie, but it's an annoyance we (myself and two others watching the film) couldn't let pass.

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 is presented on Blu-Ray at an aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and uses the AVC MPEG-4 codec. The film has been recorded on a fairly cheap handheld camera (well cheap compared to what most movies are shot with), and the overall image is fairly good with clear night shots and decent images during daytime scenes. Having said that we did notice some colour banding here and there, the image was occasionally soft, and shadow detail was lacking. Fortunately the film has been given a very generous bitrate of over 30Mbps for the most part so it probably looks as good as one could expect.

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In the bedroom, scared shitless!
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.

When a movie is filmed for $15,000 you don't really expect a lot of special features with on-set footage however I was somewhat disappointed that this movie, which is not one of the most profitable of all time as a percentage of production, hasn't been lavished with some additional extras such as commentaries or interviews. Still there's a couple of bits here...

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.

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What's happened to that picture?
Commentary by Writer and Director Oren Peli: We almost missed this one as it's only accessible through the Set-Up menu. The writer and director of Paranormal Activity provides a fairly entertaining and interesting commentary about his movie. It's clear that this is a passion for him and his insights into making this low budget feature are detailed.

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!

I'm not generally a fan of horror movies and I really didn't like the last ultra-low budget movie to hit mainstream mega-success, The Blair Witch Project. Fortunately this movie is a vastly superior experience which will have you on the edge of your seat. Turn off the lights, crack up the sound and be prepared to feel the horror...

Review By: Dave Warner


Note: All images in this article are Copyrightę Icon Films. They are only indicative of the movie and not sourced from the vastly superior Blu-Ray disc format.