Mild spoilers ahead. Ye be warned.
At best, Paranormal Activity is a shaggy dog story: way too much setup for a mediocre punchline.
Raving Bitch and her boyfriend Useless Asshole are trying to investigate a ghost or demon or somesuch that has been obsessed with Raving Bitch since she was eight. The whole thing is shown in home movies that the couple made.
It was The Blair Witch Project all over again. And I'm not saying "It was the same style." I'm saying someone said "Let's remake Blair Witch but have it all take place in one house."
It starts with the couple happy and enthusiastic. Then they start hearing loud noises in the night and spend the rest of the movie screaming at each other 'cause they're out of cigarettes and he kicked the map into the river. No, wait, I mean because there was a picture in the attic and he brought a Ouija board into the house. Whatever.
The only way it differs from Blair Witch is we actually get to see some stuff. Emphasis on the "some." In other words, you see a shadow twice and some footprints. Oooh, spooky.
Oh, no, wait...
I was pretty excited going in to Paranormal Activity. I knew absolutely nothing about it going in other than everyone was raving about how terrifying it was. I'd only ever seen one preview and that was mostly just shots of the audience screaming. I almost never get to go to movies that I know nothing about, so I was all for it.
This is a movie that would have been terrifying a few decades ago, back when it hadn't been done before. If it had come out in the sixties, nobody would have made such a huge deal when Blair Witch came out in the nineties and would have saved us a lot of trouble. "Oh. It's Paranormal Activity, but in the woods. Let's go see Mystery Men instead."
Maybe Paranormal Activity was actually scary and I'm just jaded. I did have a good time watching it, but for all the wrong reasons. Lauren and I had a lot of fun insulting the characters under our breath. I know I complain about unlikable characters a lot, but jeesh! There's a reason I call them Raving Bitch and Useless Asshole. And I'd like to point out that we were not the only ones laughing.
The "terrifying noises" mostly just sounded like "the demon bought a drum kit." For most of the movie he seemed less like a threat and more like an annoying roommate.
I will say this: I admired the way the demon's actions were built up. It went from playing the drums to dragging people down the hall (one of two cool parts).
And I loved the last scene. Loved it, thought it was awesome. However, even though the movie was only about an hour and a half long, it felt like it took days to get to there.
I don't know if I think that last scene is worth the overly long, overly annoying build up. But I feel like it wouldn't be nearly as satisfying if there was no buildup at all. And it was only just satisfying enough (because, like I said, unlike Blair Witch, they actually gave us something at the end).
It really is just a shaggy dog story.
End of line.