Paranormal Activity (2009)

25 November 2009

synopsis
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Paranormal Activity is based on true events, this frightening and supernatural film portrays the story of Katie and Micah, a carefree couple who become haunted by an unseen presence in their house. They decide to investigate the increasingly bizarre and escalating intrusions by setting up a video camera to capture evidence of the demonic presence in their house, only to find much more than they ever imagined.

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our review
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"Packed to the brim with suspense, and pant-wettingly scary"

About an hour into this film, a fully-grown man in the cinema openly shrieked.  Never before have I ever heard that happen, and it is a testament to just how scary Paranormal Activity really is.

The film is a wonderful example of how, in cinema, simplicity is king.  Using four actors, one location, and filmed exclusively by the actors themselves (think Blair Witch but with a higher quality camera), director Oren Peli is able to focus the concentration of the audience solely on what is important.

Through the handy cam, we follow Micah and Katie, as they seek to identify the true cause behind the spooky goings on in their house.  What starts off as a bit of a joke between the couple soon turns into something more sinister, as the entity haunting the couple takes on a more malevolent bent.

Peli clearly has the nack of getting an audience going. By filming the movie in what is essentially a series of daily vignettes, the audience is able to connect with the characters, as the level of suspense and fear grows simultaneously between the two.  By scripting the majority of the ‘hauntings’ to happen at night whilst the characters are asleep only adds to this, as we are scared not only on our part, but also for the sleeping couple. 

What makes it even worse is that the antagonist is never revealed.  The fact that you know it’s there but are unable to see it, despite the fact you know it’s right in front of your eyes just adds to the primal levels of fear, and lets your imagination run riot.

Paranormal Activity is a proper edge of the seat horror.  Not ruined by being excessively gory or by being reliant on special effects, it goes back to doing what good films do best – good plot, good acting, good direction.  If it’s a damn good fright you’re after, then there’s nothing better.

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film information
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  • Release Date
  • 25 November 2009
  • Cast
  • Katie Featherston, Micah Sloat
  • Director
  • Oren Peli
  • Writer
  • Oren Peli
  • Company
  • Icon Film Distribution
  • Genre
  • Horror, Mystery, Thriller
  • Cert
  • 15
  • Runtime
  • 85 minutes
video media
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dvd details
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DVD cover
  • Release Date
  • 22 March 2010
  • Technical Features / Extras
  • Release Date: 22 Mar 2010
  • Audio Commentary from director Oren Peli
  • Short Film Winner & Finalists
  • Alternate Ending
  • £19.99 RRP on DVD
  • £24.99 RRP on Blu-ray
DVD Review
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"I was definitely a bit shaken by Paranormal Activity, then again I watched it alone just before bedtime."

Director Oren Peli based the film on his own script, and what he created draws obvious parallels to The Blair Witch Project, another low-budget indie that generated as much hype. Peli knows how to build tension, and it would be interesting to see what he does with a heftier budget.

Micah and Katie are a young couple living together for the first time. We first meet them through a camera that Micah is manning himself, and soon learn that Katie has been having issues of the supernatural variety. Micah has purchased the expensive camera in order to film them while they sleep, so that they might catch whatever has been whispering into Katie's ear at night. What they find is truly terrifying and only gets worse the more they try to find a solution. Basically they're attempting to capture demons by throwing hissy fits of epic proportions, all caught on camera.

I was definitely a bit shaken by Paranormal Activity, then again I watched it alone just before bedtime. That's probably something you shouldn't do. It isn't a series of gruesome images, or even a masked killer ready to pounce on his or her victim, it was mostly a door opening by itself! There is a slow burn that starts quietly, and as each night passes for a young couple, the darkness seems more and more nightmarish. The cast is small, the shooting location is relegated to a house, so if the sense of claustrophobia doesn't get you, then the weird stuff will.

Unfortunately this film has had a lot of hype surrounding it, and once a really good and freaky horror film comes along and scares a bunch of people, the excitement begins to build. By the time many of you will have the chance to see it on DVD you may find yourself questioning the high praise it has received.

The extras aren't as exciting as the film, there are some shorts from a competition in a similar low-budget style, which I suppose if nothing else, inspires the up and coming to keep making films. I will say that the alternate ending is different, but only in the last ten seconds. 

This is one that will continue to be talked out, so we recommend, (not just horror fans) to grab the duvet, the popcorn and a friend for an evening of Paranormal Activity.