Paranormal Activity's really the little film that could. The movie made its way into Steven Spielberg's hands and the writer/producer of Poltergeist was so freaked out by it, he brought it back to the studio in a black bag. I'm not sure why exactly Spielberg needed to put it in black bag in order to feel safe, but he did. Although it was originally bought by the studio with the idea of remaking it using a bigger budget, a public screening persuaded DreamWorks/Paramount Pictures to leave it be. Paramount is releasing it in a few cities at a time, based on people demanding it in their city. The buzz generated online by people tweeting about it and chatting on message boards has made Paranormal Activity into one of the most talked about movies of 2009. And it was all accomplished without a film crew and with a tiny budget.
The StoryThe action never leaves a two-story house in San Diego. Katie (Katie Featherston) and Micah (Micah Sloat) are pretty much your typical nice young couple. They're not married - she's in college, he's a day-trader. They're relatable, they don't speak movie dialogue, and they seem to really be into each other. Basically, they're people you wouldn't mind being friends with, which means that when events begin to escalate, you really feel for what they're going through. You pull for them to get out of the situation safely.
See, something is terrorizing Katie at night. When we meet the couple, Micah hasn't heard these noises that are waking Katie up from sound sleep. Micah's not really convinced there's anything going on, but he's a caring boyfriend who tries to be supportive. So what does he do? He buys a videocamera in hopes of capturing whatever it is on film. If something's indeed messing with them at night, the evidence should show up in the footage.
Micah follows Katie around with the camera during the day and at night he sets up the camera to record events in their bedroom, feeding the stream into his laptop. And oh yeah, that camera does in fact confirm the existence of something terrifying in their house. To say more would be to spoil the story.
The CastFirst off, I don't know a thing about Katie Featherston or Micah Sloat but I will say they are extremely convincing and absolutely perfect as the couple in the center of all the action. Everything rests on their shoulders, and their performances are truthful and riveting - better than much of what we've seen onscreen this year from actors making millions of dollars in less demanding roles.
The Bottom LineHad Paranormal Activity taken the Blair Witch Project route of just teasing the scares, it would not have been in any way effective. But Paranormal Activity uses a camera set up in the bedroom at night with low lighting and shows us the paranormal activity going on around this couple sleeping in their bed.
Paranormal Activity works so well because it shows us there really is something going bump in the night. You have every reason to be freaked out by squeaking noises you hear on your stairs or that door that seems to be opened wider than it was when you went to bed. That feeling of being watched...yes, something is keeping an eye on you as you get your 40 winks.
There's a lot to appreciate about Paranormal Activity, and I'm going to admit a large part of my disappointment in the film likely came from knowing too much going in. That, and I wanted more of the nighttime activities of whatever's in that home with this couple. Yet it is, as I said at the beginning of this review, a decent horror film. The plot is tight, the film moves right along at a snappy pace, and there are a few scenes that made me jump in my seat.
My suggestion: try to avoid watching any trailers or videos from the film before sitting through Paranormal Activity. The less you know, the more likely you are to be frightened.
Paranormal Activity is rated R for language.
Theatrical Release Date: September 25, 2009