Paranormal Activity review

Editor; Australia (@Kwenton)
Paranormal Activity review

Paranormal Activity was suddenly brought into the mainstream light from its grass roots by Director Oren Peli, who created it three years ago. Perhaps this was the intention all along. With the hype surrounding its initial small midnight releases with the option to 'DEMAND IT' in your area. Just hearing about this sort of movement was enough to peak interest in the film and begged the question, 'is horror truly scary again' to be answered, and the answer? Yes it is in the glorious way that Ringu (The original Japanese Ring) was scary; an overall atmosphere of horror and doom that absorbs.

Much like the hyped sensation of the first Blair WitchParanormal Activity employs the use of a shaky handy cam, helmed by the over confident and slightly sceptical Micah (played by a Mr. Sloat of the same first name). He films his engaged girlfriend Katie (Katie Featherson) during the day and their bedroom via a camera stand during the night. A timer counts down to the infamous witching hour of 2:00 AM as an initially subtle, unexplainable horror quickly gains momentum as the scares ramp up nightly from ambiguous to definite and unrelenting. The entity it seems only needed an audience to make it truly known and this is presented utilising demon movie myths such as possession accompanied by ghost related activity and strange sounds; literally paranormal activity in the broadest sense. Although this sounds tame it is actually quite effective and hair-raising.

For the majority of the film all you see is this couple and it easy to sympathize with them and even appreciate Micah's humour. They are very believable in their element of fear and confusion; as well they should be with the ploy that the film is actually found footage. During the day they chat idly and even enjoy themselves, but it is not long before they are discussing obsessively what was recorded the night before as they play it back in disbelief.

There are also a few additional characters in the film like Katie's friend and 'the Psychic' (no name) played by Mark Fredrichs who does a good job as a possible saviour that promises help but in the end does not deliver. Another important 'character' is the house itself as it takes on a life of its own as every aspect of it becomes questionable and dangerous as the movie progresses. The layout of the house and the various rooms are repeatedly visited and there is an intimate bond between the camera and the house and the terrifying dark transformation it takes in the late hours of the night.

Although it is understandable that Micah is defending his home and girlfriend, his 'let me handle it' attitude quickly becomes very unbelievable in such context. One striking example of this is when they leave their home, the camera filming the lounge room as an Ouija board in the middle of it begins reacting in the most disturbing way. The film does not show him in shock or surprise reviewing this footage as it should have, much like the scene where they witness a very graphic online video of a prior demonised woman. The Ouija board is a very powerful scene that was underplayed because Micah continues his stubbornness and territorialism with the entity.

Regardless of his attitude and tactics, things still go bump in the night. It is a scenario everyone has experienced; the mind is playing tricks, or is it? Oren has effectively taken those questionable fears and elevated them to something unquestionably real. Paranormal Activity is a masterful balance of suspense and expectation as some nights nothing even happens, and the waiting is truly the ordeal. It is this level of familiarity that works so well to psychologically manipulate and prompt thinking about the film after watching it, when at home, in bed, but cannot sleep...

In addition to Micah's at times unrealistic attitude, the film is also let down because of the unbelievable endings, of which there are three depending on which version. Each ending is similar but slightly different, and none of them really do this film justice and do not fit in with the overall pacing and direction of the movie.

Paranormal Activity is minimalist in its exposure to horror elements and it is better off for it, this is a low budget but thoroughly enjoyable and, yes, scary film that gives tense a new meaning. The feeling of reality via a relatively unknown cast, the improvised scripts and the natural reactions to the unexplained only add to the terrifying scenario of an otherworldly entity that persists to torture.


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