Sunday, December 20, 2009

Paranormal Activity (2009)


A young couple of over two years living together buy a camera in order to record what they fear is paranormal activity occurring in their home. As time goes on the events get more and more serious, and a local psychic informs them that Katie (Katie Featherston) may be haunted by a demon.

There's a plus side and a down side to seeing a movie as hyped as this one some time after it has been released. The plus side is that you catch a lot of the more level minded reviews, but of course the downside is that you've pretty much been told by everyone what to expect. I have to admit I went in to this film with very low expectations. The "found tape" motif is a common, if not overbearing, modern technique, which I must say is highly effective for this kind of film. As well Peli seems quite sure of what to do with the camera, utilizing it carefully enough to give it that very real vibe he's seeking. Perhaps the best thing Peli does for the viewer is his use of sounds. Since the camera is often away from the action, Peli heightens our senses through eerie creaks in the floor, loud screams and dark moans from dark rooms in the distance. This allows the viewer to feel the very tension its main actors feel, as each sound grows closer and closer.

The two lead actors Katie Featherston and Micah Sloat are solid enough to pass the film's short run time, but I could hardly call either of them amazing. Having to improvise dialogue, and film such events in a 7 day shooting schedule I suppose I can't fault them much. However I struggled to find either character likable, or their actions relatable in certain situations (especially Micah's I'm going to take care of this myself stance - and his "research"). As well the film's first 30 minutes are quite tough to get through, I would hardly call a moving door and keys falling on the floor, scary enough to garner attention. Of course once that 30 minutes is up, Peli's scares kick into overdrive and he manages to make something of his muffled start.

Paranormal Activity's finale is definitely one of the better seat jumpers of the year, powered by a great tone set by the film's final act. Peli allows the viewer to feel both one step ahead, and at the same time stuck with the stars. This creates the audience's desire to try and guess ahead, while Peli carefully creates moments meant to scare the audience well after the credits roll. My one real gripe with the film is its use of fast forward. The use of such really removes the randomness of the horror, keep the audience on its heals, instead the audience is told when the camera is not being fast forward through something is going to happen. Instead the horror is related to our senses, our fears, and while it may not provide many immediate scares, it does have a solid lasting effect on the viewer. Sometimes that's the best thing any horror film can do.

While not the scariest movie I've ever seen, Paranormal Activity is effective at what it intends to do, despite its obvious flaws.

6 better thoughts:

Aaron the altar boy said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Univarn said...

@Aaron You can re-post your comment if you remove the more extreme language.

Jaydon said...

Saw this just yesterday, liked it even less than you did. The leads are annoying in stereotypical ways. Micah was boorish, ignorant and stubborn and Katie was helpless, nagging and at times uncommunicative. Since the movie is more about their interaction than anything else it couldn't rise above that. Who cares what happens to two unlikable people? The paranormal stuff was also rarely engaging and at times just brain dead (the bit with powder for example). The ending was poo also. This was like a 5 minute youtube video dragged out to feature length.

The Mad Hatter said...

As you know I totally dug it, but that's because I get more creeped out by subtle things where my mind starts filling in the blanks.

The fast forward didn't bother me as much - actually it gave me a bit of a smile. The weird shit usually went down around 3:15am...which was a neat little nod to AMITYVILLE HORROR.

Oh well - win some, lose some.

Lemmy Caution said...

This one worked for me. Turned the lights out and the sound up....and it spooked me out big time...despite having absolutely zero belief in anything remotely paranormal. Fun movie.

Univarn said...

@Jaydon yeah, I ran into those same issues with the characters.

@Mad Yeah I noticed most events took place in the 2 and 3 o'clock range, didn't make the connection though, good catch!

@Lemmy You're not alone there. I suppose this film hits the right notes for a lot of people's subtle scare points.

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