Saturday, October 31, 2009

Paranormal Activity ***

Paranormal Activity
*** out of ****

You've all heard of this movie by now. You've probably heard many things about it. I'm here to tell you that everything you've heard is true.
Now playing nationwide just in time for Halloween, the film was demanded by enough people that it's now becoming a national phenomenon. The story is fairly simple: Katie and Micah are girlfriend and boyfriend that are living together in a nice big house. Their relationship is healthy and they are happy, except that there seems to be something in the house. At first they suspect a ghost, but soon are convinced it's actually a demon that's been following Katie around her whole life. Micah buys a video camera and much to the chagrin of his protesting girlfriend, starts filming themselves as much as possible, including a wide-shot of their bedroom all night while they sleep. Slowly but surely the camera starts to pick up strange unexplainable things happening, usually in the middle of the night. At first they're subtle: strange noises like bumps and footsteps, but then get more and more real, like lights turning on, phantom breezes, shadows, and footprints left in baby powder, until it ultimately stops playing around. While Katie is terrified of it, Micah refuses to be scared and actually eggs it on, hoping to catch more and more happenings on tape. They bring in a physic, who doesn't help them at all. They talk about different ways to get rid of it, but are ultimately powerless against it.
The film is about as indie as it gets: microscopic budget, no-name stars (although both newcomer leads, Katie Featherston and Micah Sloat, are very good), no music score, and practically no special effects. At least they don't look like special effects- I have to wonder how they pulled off some of the more complex tricks that this invisible spirit performs. The film makes every effort to make all the footage look real, including removing the studio logo and even the credits from the finished product. (And it is fake- don't fall for any rumors you may hear. This movie is NOT real or based on true events.) The reason this film has attracted so much attention is that it sucks you in and puts you in the room with these people. The scary events are that much more scarier because it feels so real. Even if you know something scary is coming, it's still enough to make your heart race and maybe to even make you scream. Personally, I left the theatre physically shaken, and I think a lot of other people did, too.
The film is not perfect, though. The handheld camerawork does get annoying and even dizzying at times because the handler is obviously not a professional cameraman. The film is slow to get going, and while some of the scares are worth the wait, a lot of the exposition is pretty boring. The film also gets kind of repetitive since the whole thing takes place in their house and because we never see the thing, we only hear it and see its effects on the real world. It tends to do a lot of the same things repeatedly.
Paranormal Activity will surely go down in history as one of the scariest movies ever made. While there is the obvious inspiration from The Blair Witch Project, the film offers serious comparison to movies like The Exorcist, Jaws, and Psycho. It's scary as hell. Don't watch this one alone!
I would recommend this film to horror junkies, and basically anyone looking for a good scare. Be warned that it may be too intense for the average moviegoer.

You can watch the trailer here:

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