Reviewed by: Zombie Boy
What's it about
When live-in couple Micah and Katie are menaced by an unseen force, they decide to be pro-active and try to get it on tape. Bad move.
Is it good movie?
Micah and Katie are a young Californian power couple in the making: she is working on her English degree with an eye to teaching, and he is a presumably successful day-trader. They live in a very nice home complete with an in-ground swimming pool and drive a nifty little Porsche. But not everything is as it seems. After three years of dating, Micah comes to realize that Katie has been hounded by an ostensibly paranormal entity since the age of eight. Being the go-getter that he is, Micah buys himself a snazzy video camera and fits his computer with an EVP recorder, and they attempt to get the ghostly goings-on on tape. Which only serves to antagonize the demon, and puts the couple into a chilling world of shite.
I am not afraid to tell you that Paranormal Activity scared the holy hell out of me. It starts off mundane enough, with the story being told solely through video shot by the couple. All Blair Witch Project and Cloverfield worries can be cast aside: the camera they use is very nice, and the image is never shaky or grainy. In the beginning they josh around a bit, just a happy-go-lucky couple with a little problem, but when they start to capture some phenomenon on tape, things get a wee bit creepy. Okay, no problem. I’ve seen this kind of stuff before. But once Micah begins baiting the demon and literally calling it out, it gets pissed and amps up its mischief. At this point I became noticeably uncomfortable, and at the climax discovered that I was pretty much ready to poop on myself. When the movie was over I thought to myself: “Well, I probably won’t be sleeping tonight.” That is pretty high praise coming from me.
My hat is off to first-time director Oren Peli. He shot this movie in ten days for $15,000 in his own home. He used almost exclusively in-camera tricks for the haunting scenes, as well as cleverly employing off-camera sounds and lights. Praise must also be given to freshman actors Katie Featherstone and Micah Sloat, who had to make the audience believe everything that Peli was putting in front of us. This film has no soundtrack and no score, and thus no musical cues to tell the audience when to laugh or when to be scared. It all comes from the direction and the acting, and I for one was absorbed by it. There is a sequel planned, which is sort of a bummer. Hollywood will always ruin a good thing.
Video / Audio
Video Widescreen, shot on video (duh). I was actually surprised by how crisp and clear the image was. No headache-inducing nonsense typical of this sub-genre to be found here.
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround in English, and an unspecified Spanish track (for the theatrical version only), with optional English, French, and Spanish subtitles. A surround sound system will definitely improve the chill-inducing qualities of this film.
The only real feature here is the ability watch the film either with the theatrical ending or an alternate version (actually the original ending, until changed at the suggestion of Steven Spielberg). You can also choose to watch only the endings. Other than that, just a trailer for Shutter Island. Pretty anemic, but I guess that is in keeping with the sparse quality of the movie itself.
Paranormal Activity is of the “found footage” sub-genre of horror, but I think it is a cut above the rest. It draws you in and makes you feel comfortable, like you know everything that is going to happen, and then BAM, you find out that it has you by the balls. It escalates in an organic fashion, a slow burn towards a pretty dastardly conclusion. I suggest watching it alone, at night, in the dark. I guarantee you will sleep with the lights on that night.