Directed by: Oren Peli
Premise: A pseudo-documentary about a couple (Katie Featherston and Micah Sloat) that is haunted by a demon.
What Works: Paranormal Activity is shot in a handheld documentary style and it sells the illusion of the haunting through subtle use of sound and very simple but creepy in-camera visuals. The relationship between the couple is convincing which helps the film tremendously. Katie Featherston and Micah Sloat play their roles very naturally and the script takes time to build up the dynamics of their relationship as the two deal with the haunting and each other’s idiosyncrasies, allowing them to drift apart and later reconcile. This adds a lot of reality to the picture that sells the scares later on. As the haunting becomes more aggressive in the second half of the picture, things get very frightening and the use of night vision cameras adds to the sense of reality.
What Doesn’t: The first half of Paranormal Activity is tough to get through, largely because the boyfriend is such an obnoxious jerk. The early parts of the film play like an amateur documentary, which of course is the intended look, but it also gets very repetitious as the film falls into a pattern of the couple experiencing paranormal activity at night in the bedroom, discussing what happened in the daytime, and then experiencing more activity at night. Although there is a rising intrusion of the demonic forces, the couple doesn’t do anything about it, which is frustrating.
Bottom Line: Paranormal Activity is a very effective horror film. It is not the kind of horror film that is bound to upset the establishment like The Exorcist or The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and, for better or worse, in time it will likely be remembered in the same category as The Blair Witch Project, but it does manage to thrill and frighten more effectively than a lot of recent films in the genre.
Episode: #264 (November 8, 2009)