Paranormal Activity (2007)


I’ve written before about how movies that scare are on a par with movies that elicit tears: both possess a tangible power to which few works of art can aspire. Even though I knew from the outset it wasn’t “real” footage, I absolutely loved The Blair Witch Project. It scared me so much that even now camping remains a much more thrilling experience than it was before I saw Josh’s teeth in a handkerchief. So naturally when I first caught wind of the markedly similar looking Paranormal Activity, I was jazzed. I opted to save it for the 31 Flavors but, as the months between its wide release and October 2010 passed, I became increasingly nervous. I was afraid I would be disappointed, much in the way audiences who saw Blair Witch late in its release cycle were unimpressed with what, to me, had been no less than a revelation in terror.

I’m happy to report that all my worrying was unnecessary. Even with all the hype, and despite some surface blemishes, Paranormal Activity is one of the scariest movies I’ve seen in years. I’m not sure what to expect from the sequel (post coming tomorrow!) but even if it’s nothing more than a bigger budget remake of the first a la Evil Dead 2, consider me fucking SOLD.

The story: Micah and Katie live together in sunny San Diego. Micah’s a day trader and Katie’s in grad school. When first we meet this sweet young couple it’s through the lens of Micah’s fancy new video camera. He purchased said camera for the express purpose of making sextapes investigating the strange occurrences the two have been noticing at night, including unexplained noises, household items found mysteriously out of place, and the overwhelming feeling that something is in the house with them. Katie mentions that things like this have been happening to her off and on since she was a child. Micah is at first unconvinced it’s anything other than the work of neighbor kids but, ever the alpha male, he’s eager to figure out what’s wrong and fix its ass good. He’s also really enjoying his new toy.

"No no, I'm just checking for ghosts. Maybe you should bend over a little to be safe."

They set the camera up to record themselves while they sleep and, sure enough, within a few nights they’re capturing strange sounds, doors closing by themselves and all kinds of spooky stuff. Seemingly in response to their proactive efforts, the encounters rapidly escalate and the two begin to understand the true nature of what it is they’re facing.

"Please be a burglar. Please be a burglar."

Biggest letdown: When I discuss letdowns, bear in mind two things: (1) according to Wikipedia this movie was shot in seven days on a shoestring budget and (2) I really enjoyed it. That said, the thing that struck me as less than spectacular was Katie herself. While perfectly adorable and certainly a capable actress when working at emotional extremes, she struggles with the movie’s improvisational style, especially during times when everything is status quo. There’s an obvious difference between a person who stumbles organically while speaking and an actor who flubs a line and pauses to see if it’s going to require another take. Too often Katie seems like the latter. Granted, it’s a lot to ask of anyone: Micah is behind the camera most of the time so she’s basically carrying the entire movie. She does admirably given her constraints. With even a slightly elongated shooting schedule she likely would have nailed every moment.

"I'm a professional psychic and even I think you're fucking nuts."

Why you should watch: Watch it alone, in the dark. If you aren’t scared, you’re either Helen Keller or a sociopath. From the very first weird tapping noise (turned out to be the ice maker) I was hooked. It made me more than a little jealous I hadn’t thought of something this elegantly simple myself. Even though the first recorded event is barely noticeable, that first night would have by itself made for the most intense episode of Ghost Hunters in that show’s miserable history. “Oh my god, I can’t believe what just happened! A tiny corner of that curtain blowing in the wind moved in a way that looked almost like it was not moving in the same direction as the rest of the curtain! WE HAVE FOUND THE SMOKING GUN OF SUPERNATURAL PHENOMENA. Now let’s watch it in slow motion thermal a few thousand times.” That show sucks.

Board games!

Memorable Moment: Night #20. Trust me.

Choice quote: “Well, obviously this is incontrovertible evidence that evil forces came from beyond the grave to move your keys.”

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3 Responses to “Paranormal Activity (2007)”

  1. […] 31 Flavors of Terror A terrifying movie terror-thon of terror « Paranormal Activity (2007) […]

  2. […] Paranormal Activity – Looking forward to the deleted sex scenes. They have to exist, right? […]

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