**** (out of 5)
October 16, 2009
Katie Featherston as KATIE
Micah Sloat as MICAH
Mark Fredrichs as THE PSYCHIC
Directed by: Oren Peli
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
By now, you had to have heard about the cinematic phenomenon known as “Paranormal Activity.” It’s being hailed as the new “Blair Witch Project,” both for its creepy nature and also for it incredibly successful grass-roots marketing campaign.
To really enjoy this film, you have to step outside of the hype a little bit. Is “Paranormal Activity” the scariest movie in decades? Not really. Is it the scariest movie of the year? Maybe. Is it the scariest movie of the Halloween season so far? I’ll give it that.
Whether you’re scared by the haunting story in the film or not, you have to respect the phenomenon. How many other $15,000 film has become such a mainstream hit? Indie filmmakers will be quoting the cost-to-revenue ratio for years, trying to fund their own feature projects, and this movie will go down in history along with “Clerks,” “Slacker” and “The Legend of Boggy Creek” as an example of a wildly profitable independent film… even if no one else sees it after today.
But too much hype can kill the spirit of the film. Don’t get caught up into it, and you will have more fun in the theater. And make no mistake… “Paranormal Activity” is the kind of film that needs to be experienced in a crowded cinema with 250 of your closest friends.
The story follows a young couple, Kate and Micah. Kate has a history of being followed by a spirit, haunting her since her childhood. Fascinated by this, Micah buys a video camera and decides to document the experience. However, over the course of several weeks, the haunting gets worse, and the attention seems to aggravate the demonic spirit attached to Kate. The audience experiences the late-night terrors with the couple and gets to watch their relationship implode.
We’ve seen a lot of these POV movies over the last decade or so, with digital video and HD cameras providing a better look than a crappy VHS or Betacam format. From “The Blair Witch Project” to “Cloverfield” and “Quarantine” (which I know is just a shot-by-shot remake of “[REC]”), the biggest problem has been the shaky-cam aspect.
What “Paranormal Activity” does is downplay that using a locked-down shot to capture the after-hours hauntings. It’s excellent minimalist filmmaking with relatively simple special effects and a strong reliance on suspense.
A movie like this isn’t overtly scary, and it’s not particularly violent. Instead, it gets in your head. Fans of “Ghost Hunters” and “Destination Truth” should eat it up, and it will be a staple of slumber parties for years to come.
But the bottom line is this is the event movie of the year. It’s meant to be experienced rather than just looked at. And at the end of the day, I don’t care how cynical you are, “Paranormal Activity” will get inside your head. So after watching it, while you’re going to sleep in a dark house, you might just be a little more creeped out by the everyday bumps in the night.