Friday 6 August 2010

Movie Review: Paranormal Activity (2009)

Filmed for $15,000 and grossing more than $190 million, Paranormal Activity is the creation of Director, Writer, Cinematographer and Editor Oren Peli. The movie was filmed entirely in Peli's house, and actor Micah Sloat did much of the camera work.

Cute couple Katie (Katie Featherston) and Micah (Sloat) have moved into a two-level house. A demon spirit starts tormenting them, and it turns out that Katie has been the target of this demon all her life. Micah invests in a video camera to capture what is going on in the house while they sleep. Gradually, the demon's nightly intrusions intensify. The couple get the help of a psychic and Micah uses an Ouija board to try and contact the demon. Nothing seems to help, and the demon's attack become more brazen.

In the spirit of The Blair Witch Project, the movie is presented entirely from the perspective of the camera used by Micah to capture the strange events in the house. We only see what the camera captures. Paranormal Activity immediately draws us into the life of Katie and Micah, and we are also ironically better informed than they are, as the camera witnesses the activities of the demon while they sleep. It is an effective technique to build up the tension.

And Paranormal Activity is cleverly mostly about the tension. Not much that is violent or shocking happens for most of the film; the tension is derived from the threat of unknown evil that preys on the minds of Katie, who is quick to understand the potential danger; Micah, initially skeptical but gradually victimized; and of course the audience.

The likability of actress Katie Featherston is central to the success of the movie. The focus of Micah's camera whenever the couple are awake, Featherston is convincing as the student-next-door gradually realizing that she is living an inescapable nightmare.

In an era of mindless horror and large stacks of corpses and body parts, Peli deserves a lot of credit for creating a refreshing film that evokes Hitchcock and deliciously teases the audience with what might happen rather what is actually happening.

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