Saturday, October 10, 2009
Movie Reviews: PARANORMAL ACTIVITY
Soon after moving into a suburban tract home, Katie (Katie Featherston) and Micah (Micah Sloat) become increasingly disturbed by what appears to be a supernatural presence. Hoping to capture evidence of the haunting on film, Katie and Micah set up video cameras in their home, but they are not prepared for the terrifying occurrences which follow.
Director: Oren Peli
Opened October 2, 2009
Runtime: 1 hr. 39 min.
Rated R for language.
Genres: Thriller, Supernatural Thriller
Typically movies that get shelved for 2 years or so are destined to die a quick and painless death either through blink or you’ll miss it theatrical runs or as direct to DVD fodder. Many a big budget film has suffered one of these fates, just ask Mike Judge about Idiocracy, so how a film that was made over the course of a week and for ~$11,000 has survived and made a splash is almost as interesting as the film itself. Paranormal Activity has taken a long strange road the big screen and it’s building the kind of momentum that other recent horror “event” movies, ala The Ring and The Blair Witch Project, have had. Sharing the same DNA as the aforementioned Blair Witch Project, Paranormal Activity is shot point of view style here using a single camera and most of the action occurs in the couple’s bedroom. The acting and dialogue is decidedly amateurish but effective enough to not become grating. Most of the dialogue was improvised as there wasn’t really a script but only rough ideas for scenes. Micah Sloat does an admirable job as the skeptical and occasionally obnoxious boyfriend who tries to handle the problem himself. Katie Featherston doesn’t do as well and her inexperience is apparent throughout with her attempts at emotion either too subdued or manic. While the two are central to the story, director Oren Peli’s ability to create a slow burning tension is really the star of the show. He uses every haunted house trick available (doors slam, steps are heard, a Ouija board is used and there’s something in the attic) to creates a scenario where every creak or knock has your skin tingling. Slowly but surely ratcheting up the strange and scary activity, Peli becoming less and less subtle with each passing night, further tightening his grip around the audience’s conscience. The familiar setting makes the entire ordeal unsettling and it ensures the effect will remain well after you leave the theater, especially the next time you head to bed. The finale, sadly, comes off as cheap and unauthentic as if Peli wanted to knock it out of the park before sending the audience on their way but missing badly. A rumored alternate, original ending, sounds much better suited for the style and story. So is Paranormal Activity a great horror film? No, it’s a very good one and one that will have audiences, in later showings, bloated with expectations that this well crafted film won’t be able to meet which will invariably result an expected backlash. It’s best to watch these types of films early in the hype cycle with a packed theater and level head, much like The Blair Witch Project, because that’s when it’s most effective.