“Paranormal Activity” has been hyped up as one of the scariest films of all time. With great word of mouth from legendary director Steven Spielberg, this $11,000 film has caught unprecedented attention. Now with its nationwide release, because of the brilliant “demand-it” marketing campaign, this film has managed to snag the No. 1 spot at the box office. That is something “The Blair Witch Project” never managed to accomplish, and just like that film, “Paranormal Activity” suffers from being over-hyped.
“Paranormal” follows an unmarried couple who recently bought a house in the suburbs, but weird happenings make the couple believe the house is haunted. Micah (Sloat), the man of the house buys a new video camera to capture the odd events while they sleep, and it works. As the long nights take a toll on them, they begin to realize that what is haunting them is no mere ghost, and they must fear for their lives as well as their sanity.
With such a small cast, the actors need to mesh well together in order to deliver a compelling film. Sloat and Featherston do a nice job acting like they are not actors, but their lack of actual talent takes away from the film. Micah suffers from having one of the most dim-witted characters of all time, but if they made him smarter, the movie would not have the same second half. As an actor he is very weak, but for this style of film I can’t say he did a terrible job. Featherston never really caught my attention, but with a role that mainly consists of screaming and crying, there’s not much to show. Overall, the actors do exactly what they were told to do, but I couldn’t help being annoyed by their conversations.
The plot is very simple, and it works for this type of movie. The idea of a modern day haunted home is great, and I love the fact that the film makes you guess what’s happening outside of the camera’s view. Unfortunately, the film notifies you in advance before any of the haunting is going to happen, and it works the first couple nights, but soon after it gets too obvious. One of the qualms I had with “Paranormal” was how dumb the couple was. Since they catch all of the weird happenings on camera, there is no way anyone would stay in that house, and it ruined much of the movie for me.
Director Oren Peli wrote, produced and directed this indie phenomenon. While I would never consider this a good horror film, I give him credit for creating such a big deal out of nothing. He owes most of his credit to the team behind the sound effects, which is really the most impressive part of this movie.
The camera work is what makes this movie unique. It uses one camera to mimic the feeling of a homemade documentary; of course that idea has been done many times before, but “Paranormal” uses the limited visibility to its full potential. It actually works so well that I heard a couple people leave the theater asking if it was real, and while I realize most people are smarter than they are, it certainly says something about this movie. The film is definitely shaky at times, but the main nighttime sequences are filmed on a tripod.
Some people may think this movie is absolutely terrifying, and I completely understand how it would scare people who believe in ghosts. I, unfortunately, do not believe in things that go bump in the night, so this movie was not effective on me. My main complaint with the film was the horribly done ending and some boring filler scenes, but the movie is not completely worthless. Even though I did not like this movie that much, I still recommend you grab some friends prior to Halloween and give this unique low budget film a try.