Remember a few years ago when “The Blair Witch Project” overcame genre expectations and became a blockbuster cult hit? That film had several other films that were inspired by its “Mockumentary” style gimmick; “Cloverfield”, “[REC]” and “Quarantine” to name a few. Well, writer/director Oren Peli’s “PARANORMAL ACTIVITY” is another film that follows in the footsteps of those films. It premiered in the 2007 Screamfest Festival and at the Slamdance film festival in 2008. Truth be told, I am not a fan of the POV style cinematography but I do believe that anything done with the right execution, right premise and a film like this will work. The Spanish film “[REC]” had definitely pulled this off and I am happy to report that “Paranormal Activity” also succeeds in achieving tension, suspense and genuine creepiness.
The film centers on a couple named Katie and Micah (Katie Featherston and Micah Sloat respectively) who lives in a large suburban house. The couple is experiencing several unexplained experiences that leads them to shooting themselves with a camera on a tripod while they sleep. Everyday they would review the footage on the camera until they both become convinced that there is something evil going on their home. Not a ghost, but something demonic that wants Katie…
The best way to approach “Paranormal Activity” is with the viewers’ expectations lowered. The film is a slow-burning experience since the film appears to be assembled footage collected from a DV camera. As such the film’s quality is very low budget when we talk about cinematography but its low-budget quality doesn’t exactly work against it since it adds to the film’s amateurish atmosphere and style. In the beginning of the film, I almost felt like I was watching an episode of “A Haunting”; the film follows very familiar ground on documented haunting and possessions. This makes the film a little predictable but director Oren Peli manages to draw his audience into the experience. You see the couple whine, argue and become scared out of their wits as we witness their frightening experiences through the lens of a handheld camera. Blankets are moved, sleepwalking is witnessed through the lens of the handheld camera as the events slowly escalate and become worst. I was pleased to report that the POV style was executed fairly well, it was rough, edgy and never for one minute did it feel polished as a real movie would feel. If Oren Peli’s intentions were to generate tension through the emulation of a ‘reality’ then he does succeed in terms of cinematography and his ability to create subtle gaps in the screenplay. It does succeed in its art but it does have its weaknesses. (I will discuss this further)
The film does follow the usual signs of haunting and/or leading to possession. “Infestation”- where an entity wanders around a familiar space while it gains strength. “Oppression”- when the haunted and their companions experience uneasiness by certain frightening incidents; until it leads to eventual ‘possession‘. I am not making this up, (you may research it yourself) a demonic force gets its strength from fear and negative energy. If you look at the events in steps, they feed off one another. The screenplay does follow these established rules as we see Micah and Katie experience the signs one by one; they hear noise, loud banging, footsteps until the paranormal activities escalate to the events happening more often to the point of seeing shadowy figures and actual contact. Most of the actual haunting happen at 3 am (as a way to mock the hour of Christ’s death) until it becomes worst and worst. It is quite an uneasy experience to see one dragged on the floor in a very inhuman fashion, the direction does bring the film into overdrive the longer it went on.
The film follows the usual opposing beliefs 'mechanism' in horror movies in its two protagonists. Katie is the one being haunted and the sympathetic one while Micah is the skeptical one. Katie just wants the unexplained phenomena to stop; she knows that she is the reason for the haunting and she is desperate to seek any help. Micah is the cocky boyfriend; with no spiritual beliefs and he insists that the situation is under his control. Horror movies are full of characters like Micah and Oren Peli accomplishes this with this annoying character. The two mess around with Quija boards, mediums, research and experts in demonology, attic exploration, while they search for a solution to this haunting. The film does give answers to the events experienced by Micah and Katie; I thought it was a decent exercise although the answers weren’t necessarily new to me.
Granted, that “Paranormal Activity” gets its strength as a sensory experience rather than a dramatic one. For a film like this to succeed, the movie has to appear rough and unpolished; to be accompanied with acting that is just so realistic that the audience can feel invested in the movie despite its low characterization. Well, in this the movie falters a bit; as the acting by Featherston and Sloat are a bit uneven. The amateurish acting somewhat damages any feelings of realism attained by the director. Their performances do appear a little too contrived, and it was so obvious that they were trying very hard to generate their sensations. Much of the film’s burden falls on Featherston’s performance; and while certain scenes were acceptable and good, some lacked the feeling of genuine emotions. Another thing, Sloat was just so annoying with his character and his performance was just so wooden. The entire cinematic experiences of “Paranormal Activity” hinges on spending time with the couple to get the viewer invested; their disappointing portrayal of realistic terror hampered the film a little.
Thankfully, the bleak atmosphere of the film makes up for the weaknesses of its two leads. The barren, home-video look of the movie assists in encouraging the viewer to buy into the film’s main premise. I enjoyed the sleeping footages and the jolts, it did manage to make some strands of hair on the back of my neck to stand up; although the sensation wasn’t really non-stop. Of course, the film does get more intense as it went on but I have to say that film may have benefited if it was a tad shorter; this way the direction would made the film a lot tighter and taut.
Paramount did market this movie extremely well; playing only at midnight in a limited number of theaters to get the hype going. However, for a film like this to really reach its viewer, the expectations has to be really low. Given with a very small budget of $ 11,000, the filmmakers managed to make use of its interesting premise. An unknown, unseen force after a woman in the safety of her own home promotes incredible helplessness; seen through the lens of a handheld camera, it generates a psychological grip on its audience. The film does have some well-timed scares and scenes were shot in a very simplistic manner that made me very pleased. “Paranormal Activity” may have its share of flaws but it is a refreshing break from the rehearsed visual effects that has made Hollywood horror films ineffective; the film is an entertaining, very creepy “haunted house” full-length feature film.
*** out of **** "Paranormal Activity" is a rare case. It's the kind of horror movie in which those behind it would like nothing more to indulge and please devote fans of the horror genre; but nevertheless, the response from such a community is sharply divided. From personal experience; reactions seem to range from "loved it" to "hated it". This is unfortunate, because the movie tries hard and emerges rather successful; it would just appear that somewhat misleading marketing … more
Constantine, Queen of the damned, Drag me to hell, Underworld, House on haunted hill, The Amityville horror, An American Haunting, The haunting in Connecticut, The ring, The grudge, The Omen, The Hills have eyes, 1408, Ghost Ship, Jeepers Creepers, Halloween, Darkness Falls, Silent hill, etc I could go on and on and on. None of the movies I’ve named or could name even come close to Paranormal Activity. If you’ve read my Drag me to hell review then you … more
**Cracking knuckles** The scariest, most terrifying experience you could possibly have in the theaters?? Hmm, I digress. I seem to remember writing a review for Cloverfield back in 2008. Oh wait, I also wrote a column for that Blair Witch Project travesty also in 1999. Needless to say this handheld camera film gimmick doesn't seem to be getting any better nor do I appreciate them anymore after 10 & a half years. I am steering clear from anymore of these … more
The sheer fact that this film was produced for around 10,000 USD is something to be praised. Although the actors' skills weren't top notch, there was definitely a notable "horror film" feeling broadcast to moviegoers through watching Paranormal Activity. While watching the movie, all of the points that make a good horror film are present – you know, the “what the hell are you doing, no! Call the demonologist!” and “ are you crazy?!! get out … more
Banking on the added "realism" of using a home video camera, "Paranormal Activity" plays out on the screen in a fashion very similar to films such as "The Blair Witch Project" and "Cloverfield." Much like these two films, the success of this movie relies heavily on the execution of this gimmicky style of filming. The film opens with Katie (Katie Featherston) and Micah (Micah Sloat) fairly settled into their new home. Micah has purchased a camera in order to capture "paranormal" … more
Before I start the review, I'd just like to mention that I'm an avid horror movie fan. In the ocean of horrible horror movies, it's a challenge to find those few hidden treasures laying under the sand. This movie fares pretty well, but it's not because it is "really scary". Personally, I didn't think this movie was all that scary. But gauging the crazy reactions from others in the movie theater... some people were really genuinely scared out of their minds. … more
Paranormal Activity is a 2009 mockumentary horror film written and directed by Oren Peli. The movie premiered at the Screamfest Film Festival in US on October 14, 2007, and at the Slamdance Film Festival on January 18, 2008. The movie is currently in limited release in several cities in the United States as of October of 2009. The movie centers on a young couple, Katie and Micah, who are haunted by a supernatural presence in their home. The movie is presented through the camera set up by the couple to capture the paranormal activity.
Like The Blair Witch Project, Paranormal Activity is an impressive and harrowing indie chiller that derives much of its terror--and there is quite a bit of that in its brief running time--by playing on the most basic of human fears: that which cannot be seen. Though one might assume that the point-of-view aesthetic had been worn out thanks toCloverfieldandQuarantine(and, lest one forgets,Blair Witch),Paranormalmakes excellent use of the single-camera technique, which helps to not only preserve the film's central conceit--a new-minted couple records the increasingly threatening supernatural phenomena that have invaded their home on a camcorder--but underscore the realism needed to drive home the low-fi (if completely persuasive) special effects. The approach is also crucial to the film's suspense, which unfolds in long, largely broken takes to nerve-rattling effect. Not every horror fan--or moviegoer--will fall for the ...