Roger Ebert Home

"Paranormal Activity" review fails to satisfy

I had both comments about your "PA2" review as well as feedback for your reviews in general, and was not sure which to email- so I did both!

To start, I am not one of those people that is going to accuse you of "not getting it" just because you gave a movie a negative review. I can absolutely understand why a movie like "PA2" might not be the most enthralling. However, some of the lines in your review are a little confusing and do imply that things might have been misread. The section I take the most issue with is the following:

What exactly are you trying to say here? Based on my reading of the movie, there were no cheats. The movie ends with Katie (possessed by the demon, direct continuity from the end of "PA1") coming to the house and killing her sister/Kristi's husband... just like "PA1" ended with Katie possessed and killing Micah, which you had no issue with, if I recall correctly. The demon WAS incorporeal until it possessed the sister, and then later Katie when the timeframe shifts to the events of "PA1". Your inconsistency on this point between reviews did give me reason to question your reading of this movie, and I thought I would point that out.

Similarly, another complaint you have is:

One peculiar title says "Nine days before the death of Micah Sloat." I probably have the number of days wrong, but you get the idea. What are we supposed to do with this information?

Again, for me this relates back to the first movie. The second Katie appeared in "PA2", I began to wonder if she was already possessed- what is she going to do to the baby? etc. And then when Micah appeared, I was immediately confused/in suspense- are they both possessed? Is he reanimated? Then the title read "60 days before the death of Micah Sloat," which immediately put the movie into context for me and made it clear that this took place before the events of "PA1". I obviously could have figured this out later on, but the title putting my thoughts/concerns to rest immediately and let me get back to studying the events of "PA2". It came in exactly when I needed it and helped me enjoy the rest of the film as (I imagine) it was intended to do.

I'm not sure if my reading would change your opinion of the movie, but I thought I would point these issues out since your complaints rung a bit false to me when reading this criticism of the film.

On a completely different note, I had a question for you: do you intend your reviews to be read before or after a movie is seen? Personally, I like to read "reviews" (general overviews, comments on whether or not- and why- a film is good or bad) before seeing movies in order to determine if a movie is worth seeing or not, and "analyses" after seeing movies, since the latter usually contain spoilers and require knowledge of the movie to fully understand and engage with. For me, I have to say that often your "reviews" do straddle this line, providing too much information about the films to preserve the "fresh" viewing experience but without enough analysis behind the synopsis to merit the inclusion of such details.

This was especially evident to me in your "PA2" review, which discusses specifics that occur towards the very end of the film- a prime example being Kristi getting dragged down the stairs. Now, you explicitly mention that basically the only joy in "PA2" is for people to experience "gotcha" moments- so then why list almost all of them, including near-finale moments, in your review, thus taking away their surprise? I understand that all reviews contain SOME "spoiling" information, to a degree, but to include lines like that a) in a review for a movie that rests almost entirely on the element of surprise, and b) without any real value behind them, it makes reading some of your reviews before seeing a movie unpleasant, and I have felt this way with some of your other reviews before. I thought you might consider either including less "spoiler" content like this in your reviews, or otherwise going even FURTHER with them and discussing movies in full- with all details revealed and analyzed- and simply recommend that people read them after seeing a movie. As your reviews stand now I have a harder time finding value in them and often find them detrimental to my viewing experiences, which is a shame because your blog is one of my favorites and your non-review content is consistently engaging and thought-provoking.

Sorry for the very long email. I am in an airport right now with 4 hours to kill, so thanks for helping me pass the time! And keep up the great work with your site- which as I mentioned, I very much enjoy on the whole.

Ebert: I am not nearly as well-informed on details of the first film as you are, for the reason, frankly, that I don't care as much. Many reader said they looked at it again in preparation. Reviewing "PA2" fresh after seeing it, I didn't completely recall that the spirit would and/or already possessed Katie. But was it a spoiler to say she was dragged down the stairs?  Why? That isn't  plot point, but an event. To know that someone in the movie gets dragged down the stairs wouldn't affect the power of the moment when it springs on you. If I said said anything about the poool cleaner, now, that would have been a spoiler. But (spoiler warning) what did the spirit have against pool cleaners, anyway? 

Roger Ebert

Roger Ebert was the film critic of the Chicago Sun-Times from 1967 until his death in 2013. In 1975, he won the Pulitzer Prize for distinguished criticism.

Latest blog posts

Latest reviews

They Shot the Piano Player
About Dry Grasses
Ordinary Angels
Red Right Hand
Io Capitano


comments powered by Disqus