Maybe you’ve heard of this little film phenomenon called Paranormal Activity? But in case you’ve been living under a rock… three years ago, struggling filmmaker Oren Peli scrapped together a slim 15 grand, bought on decent camera, and shot a horror flick in his house using only two main actors.
Finding no distributor, Peli began previewing his film at midnight showings in a handful of college towns. Word spread. Like wildfire. Soon a trendy website was created where people could go on and request the film to come to their city. It worked. Big time. Every week the movie expanded to more screens. Now it’s up for a major release.
Which is a pleasant way of saying: now people all across America are about to seriously get the shit scared out of them.
No bullshit. Paranormal Activity is, hands down, one of the most terrifying movie-going experiences I’ve ever had. Coming from a guy who rarely gets freaked by films, take my word for it, you’re in for a fright.
The plot takes a lot less time to explain than the film’s origin. Katie and boyfriend Michah buy a camera to investigate a ghost that Katie thinks has been following her since she was 8. Michah, who doesn’t take the ghost stuff seriously, shoots a little during the day, but at night, he stations the camera at the foot of their bed, giving us a first-hand glimpse of what’s going down.
Things don’t begin balls-out. Each night scene is a slow progression into psychological, demonic madness. So, don’t expect all the blood and guts and bullshit that litters Hollywood horror flicks. No, instead, with this film, you create your own fear. Sure we see stuff, but for the most part the audience will be in charge of freaking themselves out, even if you don’t realize it.
This is the scariest type of cinema. The unknown. The psychological brutality of not knowing what the hell is going on. Sleep is a must, you can’t live without it. But knowing something is going to happen to you when you close your eyes… that’s troubling. And pulling it off in a way that isn't lame (ie Freddy Kruger), takes skill.
Describing the creepy antics that go down is to take the piss out of the entire film, so forget it. But let me say that it isn’t just the images that freak you out, no way. Peli’s use of sound is worth an Oscar. There is a slight sound (Bass cord? Ambient music? Guitar cord? I’m not sure), everytime something bad is about to happen. So after a while, each time you hear that noise, you know something is coming. Yet you can’t help your heart from pounding.
It’s a fantastic experiment in psychology. Like Pavlov’s experiment with dogs, Peli is using sound to produce a response, in this case one we subconsciously deem frightful.
I would be remised if i didn't admit my one major problem with the film. I’m not giving anything away by saying that Peli is seriously pushing this as a documentary, as if the San Diego Police Department found the camera and released edited footage. To me, that’s just silly. When the origin of a film is as popular as the film itself, people aren’t going to believe that it’s a true story. It worked for the Blair Witch Project because the internet wasn’t what it is today. But oh well. This fault says nothing bad about the film itself, just a slightly lame marketing tactic.
So, who should see Paranormal Activity? That’s easy. Everyone. For fans of horror films, this will rank up high with the best you’ve seen. For critics of the genre, like myself, a film like Paranormal Activity is a stroke of haunted genius. It slightly subsides our skepticism concerning a tired genre.
But be warned: sleep will not come easy that night that you see it. Or the next. Or hell, the night after that, too. A