Paranormal Activity

Paranormal Activity
Cast: Katie Featherston, Micah Sloat, Mark Fredrichs, Amber Armstrong and Ashley Palmer.
Director: Oren Peli
Screenplay: Oren Peli
Genre: Horror, Thriller
Rated: M Supernatural themes and coarse language
Running Time: 86 Minutes
Released: 3 Dec 2009

What Happens When You Sleep?

After a young, middle class couple moves into what seems like a typical suburban "starter" tract house, they become increasingly disturbed by a presence that may or may not be demonic but is certainly most active in the middle of the night.

Especially when they sleep. Or try to.

My Verdict:
Twentysomething couple, day-trader Micah and student Katie live in a new house in San Diego, California. Their lives are interrupted by strange noises and occurrences in their home, often at night when they are asleep. Katie is convinced she is the source of some sort of paranormal activity as it has followed her since her childhood and so Micah decides to take action and gather evidence by using a video camera in their home to record their lives, especially at night. As the filming progresses, the strange incidents escalate; they contact a paranormal expert, resort to a Ouija board and set up a surveillance camera in their bedroom to record all night. Watching the recordings reveals some very disturbing images that raise their fears to higher levels as the tension builds to a climax neither could have anticipated.

Paranormal Activity begins with Micah filming Katie as she arrives home using his new whiz-bang camera and this is where the initial feeling of the dreaded hand-held camera work kicks in. Thankfully, this does not encompass the entire movie as many of the scenes take place in Micah and Katie's bedroom with the camera set on a tripod to record entire nights, but there are still many scenes where that uneasy feeling of impending nausea loom from the use of a hand-held camera. Tracking shots where Micah follows Katie as they argue become a little tedious with the most interesting being the static footage taken whilst they sleep. As a couple, Katie Featherston and Micah Sloat really do seem like a couple and as actor newcomers there is not that feeling that they are just 'acting' which can sometimes comes from more well-known actors, especially when (the character) Katie switches into drama-queen mode.

Paranormal Activity is being touted as an all-time scary movie, but is it really scary? Yes and no. The scares are few, but it is the tension leading up to these that will decide the level of adrenaline that kicks in, which some might see coming and others won't. Paranormal Activity does also rely heavily on the unseen to deliver its thrills and these are mostly good enough, but all too often though is the actual location of the viewing that can make or break a horror/thriller experience. Sitting in a cinema with talkative, giggly patrons can totally ruin the experience especially if they do this during those long, silent scenes where the element of surprise is paramount, but it's probably luck that will decide if this happens.

Director and writer, Oren Peli has created a tense, faux documentary with very few actors and sets - it is his own house where filming took place in seven days and he made it on a miniscule budget without any intention of the movie ever having a mainstream release. It is these minor (!?) details that give Paranormal Activity the edge over some other high-budget major studio released horror movies that it will inevitably be compared to - The Blair Witch Project (1999) being the obvious. This is a movie that ticks all the boxes as far as its genre yet didn't need high-tech special effects or big names to accomplish its job, that in the main it certainly does, but it might not be enough for die-hard fans of the genre.

Rating : **

Christina Bruce