Paranormal Activity

 
Directed by: Oren Peli
Written by:Oren Peli
Starring: Katie Featherston, Micah Sloat, Mark Fredrichs, Ashley Palmer, Amber Armstrong
Released: December 3, 2009
Grade: A-

If you want to make a great action film, you’ll need $100m, a stunt team and the latest in visual effects software.  If you want to make a great horror film on the other hand, all you need is $15,000 and the will to do it.  Paranormal Activity is proof of that.  Sometimes, the simpler you make a horror film, the scarier it can be.

Katie (Featherston) and Micah (Sloat) are a happy young couple who live together.  Of late, Katie has been hearing strange noises during the night and it’s starting to freak her out.  Micah buys a new state-of-the-art video camera to put her mind at ease.  He sets up in the bedroom each night and they fast-forward through the footage the next day to see if they spot anything unusual.

I’ve seen my fair share of horror films and I’m seldom do I feel any emotion.  I know in the back of my head that it’s only just a movie.  That said, there were scenes in this movie that sent a shiver down my spine.

On one of the first nights in which they use the camera, the bedroom door partially closes and then reopens.  That may not sound too spooky but when you’re sitting in a packed cinema which is deathly silent (the movie has no soundtrack) then you’ll think again.  For anyone who believes in ghosts and other such paranormal beings, this probably isn’t the best film to watch before bedtime.

The film’s intensity builds and builds.  I don’t want to say too much because I want you to be caught off guard, as I was.  It’s important to shriek and scream (as many did at my preview screening).  With regards to the sudden climax, it’s worth pointing out this wasn’t how the film originally ended.  After being scared out of his wits when he first saw it, acclaimed director Steven Spielberg suggested an alternate ending and this was ultimately used in the film’s world wide release.

Paranormal Activity has a few other odd qualities to help distinguish it from other horror films.  There are no opening credits or closing credits.  At the end, you’ll be simply left with a blank screen and your own troubled thoughts.  That may be good for some but not for others.  The film has made more than $100m at the U.S. box-office and as you’d expect, a sequel which has been scheduled for 2012.  I hope it’s better than the follow up to The Blair Witch Project (which was made in a similar vein ten years ago).

If you are going to see this movie, I strongly recommend that you see it late at night during its opening week.  The bigger the crowd, the better the atmosphere.