Friday, October 9, 2009

Review: Paranormal Activity

Paranormal Activity (2009)
Genre: Horror
Format: Theatrical Release
Director: Oren Peli

It's nice to see that Paranormal Activity is finally able to find a path of movie theater distribution and is showing in limited releases across the country via the demand feature. Though the scope of release is currently limited, it looks like Paramount Pictures will have this movie opened officially nationwide if the demand hits the count of 1 million - with the recent buzz that it's been getting, I can see it happening for sure. The movie arrived in a town about 2 hours away from where I live and I would have travelled that distance to watch it if not for the fact that I was still in the middle of moving at that time. I have only been waiting for it to come out for 2 years... So, I demanded the movie alongside about 3,000 other people in the area and last week, it finally arrived in town with 3 sold out midnight shows.

To describe to you how low budget this movie really is, Paranormal Activity is a film that could have been easily made by anyone with a nice video camera. Basically, you follow the daily lives of a young couple who are recording snippets of their casual activities and nightly slumbers in hopes of capturing whatever it is that seems to be haunting the girlfriend in their house. The actors are convincing and the way that the whole thing is presented is quite brilliant - even though we all know that this is just a mockumentary, the lack of the typical "framing" you see from any other motion pictures out there is not only refreshing but it also a testament to the Oren Peli's high integrity and adherence to his own art. The movie is sometimes humorous, sometimes intense, sometimes spooky, but it is never really flat out scary. There are not many special effects to be found here, which is also quite welcomed the fact that we see fake CG with each turn in almost every other movie these days, but some of the supernatural phenomenons that do show up on screen are clever and effective. The film uses natural sound to invoke dread - there is no room for bad horror soundtracks here - and there is just something unsettling about a still camera capturing what happens around the couple while they are sleeping even when everything seems so peaceful.

The only sad thing about this movie is that its hype will overwhelm its reality. Thus, its true impact will be undermined. Paranormal Activity takes a very creative spin on the haunted house ghost story. Its attempts at presenting realism first and fantasy second make the movie empty in content which may not bode well with the mainstream audience. In the end though, those who get the movie will appreciate Peli's vision and commitment - especially when they are home alone and suddenly find themselves wide awake in the middle of the night.

RATING: 4 out of 5

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