Has the best horror film of the decade been discovered? Audiences and critics alike have heaped praise on Paranormal Activity as being one of the scariest movies they’ve ever seen. Steven Spielberg even claims that while watching the film in his home, the door to his room inexplicably locked from the inside, and he had to call a locksmith to set himself free. The film’s producers set up a viral campaign asking for one million signatures if people wanted the film to get a wide release. In less than a week, the million signature mark was achieved. But is this a case of bandwagon hype, or has something special truly been found in Paranormal Activity?
Paranormal Activity is a lower than low budget film that was conceived by video game designer Oren Peli. The story follows couple Micah and Katie, who have been experiencing some strange occurrences in their new home. Shot from the point of view of the camera that Micah bought to document the disturbances, we are placed directly in the house that is supposedly being haunted by a demon that has followed Katie since she was eight years old. After consulting a psychic who claims to be unable to help them, the couple must do what they can to flush the demon out, or at least just survive.
Expecting a let-down after all the hype, I was pleasantly surprised by Paranormal Activity. Though the all out “scares” were hard to come by, Peli does a great job of creeping out the audience using clichés such as “stuff moving by itself” and “loud noises coming from the other room”. He even finds a way to make the worn out handi-cam gimmick seem new again, just by placing the camera on a tri-pod once in a while. Despite a rather dull first 20 minutes, once the paranormal activity in question starts, it is very hard to look away. Rookie actors Katie Featherston and Micah Sloat (I wonder where their characters got their names from) do a well enough job to keep the eerie tone of the film alive. Their dedication to the roles was definitely essential to keeping Paranormal Activity watchable.
However, the claims of Paranormal Activity being something special are a bit of an over-statement. Though it was an effectively creepy film, I would not say it was unnerving enough to keep me up at night. Shortly after leaving the theater, the effects of the film wear off and you can go about your day undisturbed.
Overall, Paranormal Activity is good enough for an unsettling movie-going experience, and is certainly much better than most of the so-called “horror” films being released today. You also may be interested in knowing that there is an alternate ending to the film online, which is said to be Peli’s original ending before the studio made him change it. My rating (7/10)