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Paranormal Activity (2008)

  Tags: Blumhouse Productions, ghosts, haunting, limited, Oren Peli, Paramount Pictures, paranormal activity

Your rating: None Average: 7 (38 votes)
Reviewer Rating: 

Rating #: 
Oren Peli
86 minutes
Micah Sloat, Katie Featherston, Mark Fredrichs, Amber Armstrong, Tim Piper, Randy McDowell

Oh the hype machine, what an evil back stabbing whore you can be.  On one hand you can bring much attention to a film that truly deserves to be seen by the masses and enjoyed on the big screen.  On the other hand you can uncontrollably build a movie up into such epicness that there’s no way possible it could ever be THAT good. 

Micah and Katie are a young couple who have recently moved in with each other.  Almost immediately Katie begins to experience a presence taunting her.  Micah, not fully believing everything, sets a camera up in their bedroom in order to capture whatever has taken up residence within their home.  After a visit from a psychic, the couple learn that whatever is haunting Katie has been with her for years and isn’t just a ghost, but a total bad ass, soul stealing demon.  With each night that goes by, the shit doth hitteth the fan more and more in nearly effects less scares.  But enough of this pesky plot…is this fucking movie scary?  For the most part, yes.  But it comes with a catch.

That catch is that you have to put up with quite a bit of the running time getting to know Micah and Katie as they go through the ups and downs of their growing stressful relationship.  I didn’t really have a problem with this since I felt there was enough activity sprinkled throughout and the actors really did a great job of portraying a typical young couple with a strong chemistry.  They fight, have sex, disagree on things, laugh together, and just all around care for one another.  They’re likable (which is more than I can say for those three Blair Witch losers…god, did anyone else want the witch to fucking kill them?)  It was important to understand why Micah would stick around his demonically haunted woman when it threatens him instead of just being like “Peace, Bitch!”.

That said, I could feel the annoyance rising in the packed theater I was in during the long gaps between the activity of paranormal nature.  In a world where short attention spans have taken over, long gaps of talking, shot in shitty hand held video, can really be a death sentence.  But then the third act kicks in.

All the tension building pays off as the last half hour or so is filled with everything that caused the audience to react the way they did in all the trailers and TV spots for the film.  If you’ve ever gotten scared by watching one of the better episodes of Ghost Hunters, then you better prepare to wash the shit out of your undies.  Never once do you ever see a ghost, but the chilling atmosphere mixed with the creaking sounds and slamming doors did the impossible; made me jump during a modern day horror film. 

If I have a complaint, it’s that Paranormal Activity is one of the movies that is only effective the first time around.  It’s a gimmick movie.  One done extremely well, but a gimmick movie none the less.  One way the filmmakers could have made the movie worth seeing again was to put shadows or other things in the background that you might not have noticed the first time.  Some subliminal scares if you will.  Also the hype really does have a negative impact.  Had a seen the movie a year ago I might have given it an 8, but under these circumstances a high 7 seems fitting.

This past weekend, Paranormal Activity completely demolished the Stepfather remake and when it expands wider next week I’m recommending everyone see it.  Not only because it’s bound to be the best horror film you’ll see in theaters this Halloween season, but also to put a big old dent in the Saw series’ ego after its monopoly over the holiday for the past five years.  Director Oren Peli has accomplished a lot with very little and has an effective minimalist approach that’s been missing from horror for years.  He builds up such a dread feeling that every time the movie cut to the bedroom at night the audience would uncomfortably shift in anticipation. This film will put him on the map as someone to look out for.

While its shooting style is nothing new, Paranormal Activity offers genuine chills and relatable characters.  Best of all, it’s not a remake, it’s not a sequel, and it’s not a giant CGI ghost that’s about as scary as a Scooby-Doo episode.  Although not as good as people will make it out to be, it’s definitely a little indie gem worth catching.

Posted on October 18, 2009 - 9:51pm | Johnny D