The hype machine was rolling big-time with this movie ‘Paranormal Activity’ and I wasn’t about to let that hype train roll on by without me grabbing a seat. So instead of blowing off the critics screening of these movies, as I unfortunately do more and more because I hate leaving my house, I actually jumped on board to see what all of this ruckus about this super duper low budget horror movie was all about and to see if there was any substance to all of this hype.
Katie (Katie Featherston) is a professional student and Micah (Micah Sloat) is a day trader. No, these aren’t like real jobs but they are the kind of jobs that will keep this couple in the house most of the time. Micah has just purchased one of these crazy expensive three chip digital cameras to hopefully chronicle some of the ghost issues that his girl Katie has been dealing with. You see ever since Katie was a little girl she believes she’s been haunted by something and it has been happening off and on, but now it seems to be on again. Micah is skeptical about the whole thing but he loves his bountiful girlfriend and will do whatever he can to hopefully dispel her fears. Like obnoxiously videotape EVERYTHING.
The pair even go so far as to have a psychic (Mark Fredrichs) come to the house to give them a reading, and he does confirm that there is something there, but it ain’t no damn ghost. It’s a demon and it is not happy. And moving out is not going to help because it goes where Katie goes.
So Micah has his camera setup while the couple sleeps to catch any weird occurrences, and weird occurrences he does catch. One night the doors open and close by themselves, some nights our couple are awoken by creaking floors and loud thumps or Katie sleepwalking, standing at attention for hours at a time only to wander off somewhere. As the days go on, things get weirder and weirder, and this demon is obviously getting angrier and angrier. Micah is a skeptic no longer, Katie is fearing for
her very life and the couples relationship is disintegrating due the stress of being terrorized by an angry, vindictive demon. But Micah has a plan. Well, not really, but he says he does. I don’t want to be a dick or anything but um… this is kind of Katie’s deal and it would only take one invisible slamming door for me, as her boyfriend – not her husband, to urge her to move the hell out and handle her business. Nothing but love though.
Hype, my friends, is rarely a good thing. The Superbowl is all hype and rarely does it live up the hype. This movie ‘Paranormal Activity’ probably doesn’t live up to the hype either, but I did find it entertaining none the less. One simple reason why this movie works as well as it does is because Katie Featherston and Micah Sloat seem so effortlessly natural in front of Micah’s obnoxiously omnipresent camera. They felt like a real couple who really care for each other, complete with all the problems that real couples have and at no point is this movie does it ever feel like either one of them are ‘acting’. In addition, the character arc from simple concern to all out panic was plotted out very realistically.
Writer /Director Oren Peli also did some clever things to keep the budget low, such as give these guys occupations that kept them in the house, make the ghost character specific which kept them from having to leave the house and creating some crazy technology that records for hours at a time on endless tape or unlimited hard drive space while being attached to a super space age battery pack. One cost cutting measure that probably didn’t work so well was making the character of Micah a complete moron. Truly, his ‘plans’ of combating this demon were some of the worst plans in the history of the planet earth, and while I’m no parapsychologist I’m still not sure that walking around the house with a baseball bat yelling ‘Come get some’ is best way to combat an invisible, invincible angry demon. But what the hell do I know. Micah seemed to mentally disintegrate exponentially as the movie played on.
The object of this movie, of course, is to scare you and admittedly it didn’t do much for me in that category, at least while the movie was playing. I’m thinking your sensitivity to the fright in this movie will be directly linked into how much you believe in things that go bump in the night. I’m pretty skeptical about these kinds of things and if I hear some footsteps in my house my initial instinct is to grab my gun... if I had one... and shoot somebody as opposed to thinking I have an apparition to deal with, but if you are susceptible to ghostly thoughts then I can see where this movie might actually scare the hell out of you. That being said, and being a skeptic, I’m still not one to tempt the fates. You’ll never get me within ten feet of Ouija board, featured prominently in this movie, because that’s just silly fate tempting right there. I’m not walking in a cemetery at night time. Given a choice between walking around a ladder or under it I’m walking around it. Better safe than sorry. It is because of my unwillingness to tempt these fates that after this movie was over and I heard a creak in my house, well… I still grabbed my imaginary gun to shoot somebody, but I did have that thought in the back of my mind. That’s some effective filmmaking right there, low budget or otherwise.
The hype machine, while never a good thing, wasn’t too far off on this movie ‘Paranormal Activity’ which again shows that limited resources is the birth of true creativity. And it is because of successes of film like this that I haven’t seen a ‘Saw’ movie since the first one and will not see any of their sequels. Show me something new.