Paranormal Activity (2007): United States – directed by Oren Peli
Rated R by the MPAA – contains bad language and unnecessarily distracting cleavage
You might remember all the hype surrounding the initial release of The Blair Witch Project. Video footage, found in the woods, seems to show some youngsters disappearing. Is this real footage, and are the kids dead?
If you’re a little bit older and happen to have been in Italy in 1980, you might remember the buzz around the film Cannibal Holocaust, containing footage of some people in the South American jungles who appear to have been eaten. Director Ruggero Deodato was forced to pull his actors out of hiding to prove he hadn’t killed them while making the film.
The pretense for Paranormal Activity is nothing new, and surely dates back as far as the origins of moving pictures. It is a case of the filmmakers and backers not limiting their showmanship to what’s on screen. With this film, however, there are some genuinely creepy moments to back up the hype.
The movie purports to be footage given by the families of the actors to the studio, and then released. There are two primary characters involved, Micah (Micah Sloat) and Katie (Katie Featherston). The pair have been dating for some years and have just moved into a large house together. Something has been happening, however, that is a little creepy. They have been hearing noises, things bumping in the night, and objects have been changing locations.
What Katie has failed to mention in her relationship with Micah is that this has happened to her before. When she was younger she would hear breathing beside her bed at night and occasionally see something standing beside her. This episode ended when her house burned down.
But this is many years later and she fears the thing is back. Micah is naturally skeptical, and becomes even more so when a parapsychologist (Mark Fredrichs) visits and explains he suspects a demon is pursuing Katie. Micah decides to procure a video camera and record anything that may go bump in the night. They set the camera up with a view of their bed and the hallway and wait. It is evident that something happens, for if nothing happened there would not be a movie called “Paranormal Activity.”
The film remains true to its style throughout. All of the video and audio footage has been captured by Micah’s camera. Scenes of their bed at night are shown in fast motion, giving the idea that all of the footage is real. At first, not much happens. Then a door moves, forward and backward, very suddenly. Eventually things start getting farther out of control as something seeming to possess an actual shape haunts them.
It is a creepy film, and one that, if watched alone in the dark, could cause some terrifying nightmares. The horror is subtle and patient, slowly building throughout the film. Fortunately, unlike in The Blair Witch Project, there is a payoff in which something happens. The rest of the film is quite reminiscent of The Blair Witch Project, with characters becoming scared and strange things happening onscreen. It is safe to say that if you enjoyed that movie and want to see more, you will enjoy Paranormal Activity. If you take this film on its own and give it a chance, you may well be more scared than you expected.
One interesting aspect of Paranormal Activity is Katie Featherston. She is not your typical, tiny actress, but is more full-bodied. She is cute and attractive, and it was refreshing to see a regular-sized woman as the star of a horror film. Her constant cleavage is rather prominent, something that I feel tends to distract unnecessarily from most horror films (see Pandorum, reviewed here). Regardless, Paranormal Activity is a fairly enjoyable horror film that, while not particularly original, is effective and creepy. Add in the fact that it was made for a scant $15,000 and has grossed over $100 million, and the movie itself and the hype surrounding it seem to blend together into one enjoyable package.