Paranormal Activity

2009-12-10 16:51
 

What’s it about:


Katie and Micah are bothered by strange noises in their home. Micah decides to buy a video camera to document all the “strange” goings on, which he doesn’t take too seriously and is quite willing to laugh off as a pet project. Micah’s found footage is the movie. Who’s laughing now?

What we thought:


Paranormal Activity has suspense, tension and genuinely scary moments by the bucket load. It’s not one of those boobs-and-blood fests that we get every year posing as “horror”. Let’s face it: Hollywood horror has mostly descended into unintentional self-parody. While most of those films end up being vaguely amusing or entertaining, this movie sets out and succeeds in being genuinely terrifying.

The concept of Paranormal Activity – which cost a mere $15 000 to realise, apparently - will seem familiar. It’s the "found footage" model employed in The Blair Witch Project (and to more charming effect in Cloverfield). It seems to work even better here, partly because the setting is a suburban house. And the "action" isn’t so much focused on panicky hand-held camerawork.

Instead, director Oren Peli cleverly amps up the dread by employing a static camera in the film’s most hair-raising moments. You get the feeling that you’re watching a surveillance monitor – you know the camera isn’t going to look away or miss something in the frame. It becomes a test of your raw nerve – to see if you really want to keep watching the picture to see what happens next.

This is the best kind of terror in the movies; when you know something’s going to happen, but you don’t know what.  And it’s even better when it’s juxtaposed with your natural voyeuristic tendencies. For example, during the wide, night-time shots of the couple sleeping, the time code speeds up to a certain point, effectively cueing you to "keep watching NOW, because something’s going to…"  By the time the film reaches its halfway point, you’ll find yourself sinking back into your chair in dread every time the couple turns in for the night.

One has to commend effective performances from the two relatively unknown leads. Micah is annoying as the dude who is experiencing the same things we are, but still wishes to antagonise the situation, even as it becomes apparent that he is not in control of it. Katie is gradually both panicked and more detached as the incidents become more frequent and more intense. Their on-screen relationship feels genuine and affecting – so to speak. They even use their own names, for goodness sakes!

If there’s any real criticism of the film to be had, it’s that the last few seconds seem like an unnecessary cheap shot. On the whole, however, that doesn’t detract from a very decent effort that will make you jump. Several times. And you may not want to sleep with the lights off for a while.  Not that it makes a difference.

(A word to the wise here: Paranormal Activity may not work as well on home video or DVD. A large part of the effect of the film is in its sound design, which is best experienced in full cinematic setup. So unless you have 5:1 sound surround with a really good low end, it will benefit you to see it at the movies.)



Question: "What happens when you sleep?" Answer: "You’re screwed! And not in a nice way."

Trish 2009/12/14 12:46 PM
Stoked, when is it coming out?
Shaheema 2009/12/14 1:00 PM
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Paranormal Activity is out across South Africa right now. Don't watch it alone!
Lebo 2009/12/14 7:51 PM
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I've seen it,its terrible,i didn't sleep 4 a week!!
wesley 2009/12/14 9:28 PM
hi all, if any of you are interested in the paranormal i did a show not so long ago for a network in south africa and over seas and would like to see what the public enjoy and have come across in their own homes. email me on samosthaunted@gmail.com
CraigMac 2009/12/15 10:40 AM
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Absolutely brilliant!! Totally terrifying - I literally got chills while watching it! Best horror I have seen in years!
Nic 2009/12/15 12:33 PM
Not scary pretty korny 7out of 10
Abby 2009/12/16 3:44 AM
What a boring movie. Yawn
tammy 2009/12/21 1:44 PM
WEAK! Best part is when she [spoiler]. Here i had hoped this would scare me but what a dissapointment
jimmy 2010/01/30 6:56 PM
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@abby &tammy...you a demon!
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