Disclaimer: The author of this film review have not seen “The Blair Witch Project” and hence with that notion advices its readers to treat the below article. Note: I just did this to cheer with the mood of the film!
In the plethora of media advertisements and trailers up on the moviegoer’s face, rarely comes a film or two where someone walks in with no idea of the film whatsoever. While that does not make a film horrible or best, the pleasure of watching it without a single frame viewed before, everything is unpredictable, surprising and heightens the excitement. This mockumentary styled horror film is one of the creepiest, scariest and horrifying films I have seen, It is a perfect catalyst for paranoid moments after we walk out of the theater. “Paranormal Activity” have two main characters and we do not learn everything about them but we learn a lot about the invisible evil force in their house. In a horror film its victims disappear as falling targets while the terror material stays in the dark. Hence what we are left is a film of nothing, of course in today’s cinema the void is filled with grotesque and gory images. “Paranormal Activity” balances those two and gets on a realistic note that we would never see the home in the same way again.
The film directed by Oren Peli does not have credits other than Paramount Pictures thanking the San Diego Police department and the couple Katie (Katie Featherston) and Micah (Micah). Micah is setting up a professional video camera joined by his girl friend who has just moved in, Katie. They joke around, appear happy and Micah documents the activities. He films their daily routine for particular reason where mentioning out here will insult the intelligence of the readers. Anyhow he follows his girlfriend around and sets it up in a tripod when they go to sleep to capture the unknown activities. For a while we are not even told whether the house is haunted, because that is the obvious assumption. New couple in a new home, what more one could ask for in a boring horror film. But no, this has a history. This is not something new. It is new for Micah but for Katie, she has been seeing figures and her house got burned down without any reason when she was eight.
But the devil is not in the details, it is not even on the screen for a long time. Micah as the brave and unbelieving boyfriend he can be does not become a stereotype. He reacts, behaves as the slightly egoistic boyfriend. He ventures the camera as a curious kid. In one half he wants things to happen and the other half, well, he discovers the other half in the film. He is reasonably arrogant and a loving boyfriend. Katie as any girlfriend have the same curiosity but there is more in stake for her than Micah. She has been going through this patches of times where she is haunted by this strangeness and now this might give some answers. She accompanies Micah with partial heart.
Oren Peli begins with the Night#1 with date and time. The first night we are awake when they are asleep. Hoping for things to happen. But “Paranormal Activity” depends on a storytelling which adds upon realism to the film and an intimidating anxiousness to its viewers. Night after night, when heavy vibration and thumping sounds accentuate, we long for the day. Peli teases with the room lights. Anytime the screen goes blank and comes back, we need daylight.
While the characters do some illogical things, that is the instinct. When someone is shaken up from their sleep, the least immediate thing is to reach for lights. They stick together all the time. And day by day the stress increases and for the question of why cannot they leave the home, they have answer. But honestly if something like this happen in miniscule incremental fashion, the expectation is that it would go away and the routine of us gets the fear out. It does not happen for Micah and Katie.
“Paranormal Activity” is threatening and leaves the stomach with full of continuing fear. It is intense, methodical but not obvious about it. Its actors work terrifically with each other. Micah and Katie are a team and a couple and in a relationship. Micah’s funny attitude change to curiosity, then to be frustrated and finally angry. Katie is fine for a while and then begs and we beg with her to Micah for turning off the camera, of course the movie would end without an end then. The ending is not surprising but goes with the mood of the film. If someone believes there is going to be merry happily ever after in a film thanking the police department and two people who come in the camera, you know the end. But you do not know how it is going to get there because “Paranormal Activity” infects you, with fear.