Pros: Scary as hell. And well made too. Good actors, good direction and pacing.
Cons: I can't really call any of the them cons; they turned them to strengths.
Paranormal Activity (2007) Directed by Oren Peli
Micah: What if we just get this Ouija board and we find out what it wants and then we give it what it wants? Then it's gone.
The Psychic: Because what it probably wants is Katie.
Every so often something comes along that is a true phenomenon. Jean Auel's book, Clan of the Cave Bear. First time effort, incredible results. J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter. And now, Oren Peli and Paranormal Activity.
Filmed for USD$15,000 and grossed USD$9.1 million in its first week in the US, breaking the record of highest-grossing weekend ever for a movie playing at less than 200 theaters, it broke the record for the most profitable movie in film history, a record previously held by The Blair Witch Project (1999). It was shot in ten days in the director's house.
No budget, no names, and yet it is a phenomena. Why is that? Well, following the advice of horror film makers from the first nickelodeons forward, it takes its disadvantages, and finds a way to make them strengths.
They had no money, so complicated film angles, trolleys and mikes were out. So instead they came up with a story that incorporated the camera into it. (Yes, I know Blair Witch Project did it first. But they did it better; I didn't feel like I was going to hurl after watching the shaky cam.)
The story centers on Katie and Micah, a young couple in love. Katie has experienced bouts of haunting since she was a little girl. Now Micah is going to get to the bottom of it. He buys a camcorder, and this is the angle of the movie.
The first night, the camera does its job, and captures the door as it mysteriously shuts a few inches. A few minutes later, it moves back. The couple sleeps on oblivious. If it were not for the camera, they would never have known.
Now Micah is excited. And his enthusiasm grates a little on Katie's nerves. But Katie has an expert coming; a Psychic. And what he has to tell them is not good news. He does not think it is a ghost; it is something darker. And since it has followed Katie from house to house, it is attached to her. He suggests they do nothing to rile it or attract its attention (Ouija boards specifically) until a demonologist friend of his can take a look at the case.
But as the days grind by, the activity increases. Thumps and bumps draw them from sleep. Katie sleep walks on occasion. And the ambient noise microphone picks up odd mutterings that neither Katie nor he hear. It is really a game of psychological warfare.
And as it progresses, Micah becomes more reluctant to outside help, and Katie more resistant to his documentarian efforts. Slowly, a wedge is being driven between them as lack of sleep and jangled nerves take their toll.
As the movie moves towards its climax, you never know what is going to happen next. The entity likes to try new tricks, to keep things from getting stale. And the movie follows the old adage from Alfred Hitchcock, "I am going to scare you. I am just not going to tell you *When*."
It also maximizes the concept of less is more. You don't see the entity. No budget on make-up. And it makes it all the more terrifying.
A great deal of credit goes to the special effects people; I am sure their techniques were simple, but they were effective. And the actors were great. But best of all, the story and direction by Oren Peli make this a classic horror masterpiece. Never have I seen so much terror generated with such little effort. Watch it, then sleep lightly.
Katie Featherston ... Katie
Micah Sloat ... Micah
Mark Fredrichs ... The Psychic
Ashley Palmer ... Diane
Amber Armstrong ... Amber
Randy McDowell ... Lt. Randy Hudson
Tim Piper ... Officer Richard
This review is Lean-N-Mean. It is an appropriate 666 words. It is entered into Msbunnylicious' Wicked Hallows Write Off. And it comes out on DVD 29 December, 2009.
We are not alone
Paranormal Activity 2
Paranormal Activity 3