Tuesday, November 3, 2009

I've Seen Shit That'll Turn You White

Paranormal Activity

Release: 10.16.09
Rated R
1 hour, 26 minutes

Full Price

Have you ever had a mouse in your house? The squeaking, scratching or scurrying about can be heard late at night when your home is dark and silent. Once you recognize those tell-tale signs, there are two plans of action: call a professional exterminator or sack up to do the job yourself.

Basically, that's what's happening in Paranormal Activity, except the mouse is a supernatural creature who has been haunting Katie (Katie Featherston) since she was eight. Now, she's a college student living with her boyfriend Micah (Micah Sloat), who purchased a swanky camera to verify his girlfriend's claims. Once things start going bump, Katie calls in a psychic, Dr. Fredrichs (Mark Fredrichs), who instructs the couple on their options. Micah, however, is determined to run his own house and stamp out the paranormal pest himself.

Buzz surrounding Paranormal Activity has gone nuclear over the past few weeks. By the time I bought my ticket, the expectation that it was going to be the most frightening, panic-inducing thrill ride I'd ever experienced was hard to tamp down. Luckily, the film lives up to the hype. Fledgling writer-director Oren Peli removes all the flash and spectacle and brought his horror story back to the creepy basics. Each night when the couple set up their camera and went to bed, I couldn't help but anxiously await the creaks and whispers that echoed through the house.

During the waking hours, Katie retells memories of the shadowy presence that haunts her and Micah educates himself in the occult. His need to fight versus her desire for flight builds excellent tension as the events intensify with each passing night.

My eyes were glued to the screen, expecting the situation to erupt at any moment, until I thought I was going to spew. For the first time in my movie-watching life, the shaky-cam caused a wave of nausea. The sensation was never intense enough to send me running from the theater, but the constant camera swaying made the last half hour harder to enjoy.

Dirty Undies
They say the lack of a focal point in shaky-cam filming causes the nausea. I think the combination of Micah's unsteady hand and Katie's bouncing bosom made me see-sick. Now that I think of it, footage of some pre-paranormal fornication would have been a plus. Sadly, Paranormal Activity is severely deficient in the gratuitous gore and nudity you might expect.

The Money Shot
Peli knocked it out of the park with his first attempt. If it wasn't been for the camera-induced queasiness, I'd be giving Paranormal Activity a rave review. Peli builds a winning horror story using classic bump-in-the-night techniques in lieu of splattering the screen with a coat of fresh blood. Though the current ending varies from the original (most likely changed in preparation of inferior sequels), neither that, nor the hype, should frighten you away from experiencing Paranormal Activity.


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  1. I'm starting to think I'm the only person who doesn't get motion-sick by shaky hand-held camerawork.

    But that said YES!! - another believer. I've heard the backlash begin, but won't have any of it. This is one freaky freaky film, and everybody out there should see it.

    Glad you dug it and I couldn't possibly agree more with your review...though if you're interested, here's mine :)

  2. I thought I wasn't motion-sick, too, until this. I think I was just too focused on the background scenes, half-expecting to glimpse some ghastly face to appear in the mirror or corner.

    Yes, very freaky. I'm still thinking about it. Not b/c of a I'm scared, but from a damn, how'd this guy pull together such a great flick with $15k?!

    Now, off to check out your post.

  3. i did not get motion sick at all. I didn't during Cloverfield either.

    I had two logic questions while watching this film: Why does Katie wear a bra to bed? Why doesn't the burglar alarm go off when they go down stairs multiple times without turning it on?

    I saw the original ending. At least she doesn't attack the camera in that version.

  4. @film-book: Cloverfield didn't bother me. PA is the first time I've ever gotten queasy at a movie, makes me feel inferior now!

    I was wondering that too!! I was pretty sure every woman let them out for air occasionally! All we needed was at least one scene where she did a Flashdance pull thru after lights out. The bra kept bugging me.

    The burglar alarm I assumed was set just for when doors or windows were opened and not motion or sound based. Seems like they said something to the contrary early on. I wondered during the swinging chandelier why the alarm wasn't ringing. Then I made the above assumption and went back to hoping one of Katie's sweater puppies would flop out in her sleep.

  5. I guess we are not supposed to think about these things. Are minds are supposed to be on the ensuing terror.

  6. True. If that was the goal they should have chosen someone with smaller breasts; the 24/7 bra wouldn't have been as distracting then.

  7. saw it weeks ago and i am STILL creeped out sometimes when i wake up in the middle of the night.

  8. there was a version where she attacked the camera at the end? i think that would be much less effective

  9. I have seen both endings. I think i like the original ending the best.

  10. @IW: The camera attack ending is the version I saw. I'd really like to see the others.

    @film-book: The original ending sounds better, and less open-ended.