October 16, 2009
Katie Featherstone as Katie
Micah Sloat as Micah
Mark Fredrichs as The Psychic
After dating for three years, Katie and Micah have just moved in together in San Diego. Since they’re both at home a lot (she’s a student, he’s a day trader) home is apparently the ideal place for Katie’s ghostly friend from childhood to have some haunting fun with the couple, mostly in the middle of the night. Katie may have mentioned to her boyfriend the fact that there would be three of them living in the house, but she didn’t want to rock the boat with conversations of paranormal activity.
Too late. With the boat rocking, gently at first in the form of doors opening and closing, strange noises, the usual minor disturbances, Katie shares with Micah that she has had this ‘ghost’ following her since her house burned down when she was eight years old. After setting up a video camera in the bedroom to hopefully catch the hauntings on tape (at least that’s why Micah said he set it up), the findings were enough to the get the couple to call in a ghost buster. To their surprise the psychic informed them it was not a ghost but an evil demon that apparently chose Katie as its buddy for life and demons were out of his area of expertise. Before leaving though the nice man did refer them to a ‘demonologist’ who could handle this sort of thing.
Do they make the call? Of course not. Obsessed with his new filmmaking hobby, Micah decides instead to expand his talents by reading up on demons and exorcising it himself. After all, what are boyfriends for? He probably doesn’t take directions while driving either. Unfortunately as the psychic had warned them, confronting the demon with things like a Ouija Board and other tactics I won’t mention, will only make it stronger and worse yet, mad. Thus the nighttime footage becomes even livelier, and we watch in growing terror as the demon becomes…well…more demonic. When Katie does in fact call the demonologist he’s out of town (because there is only one evil spirit expert in California? C’mon.)
The great thing about Writer-Director Oren Peli’s film is its simplicity and ironically, the fact that it islow budget. As we learned with The Blair Witch Project, a simple video camera focused in silent anticipation of what may happen is subconsciously so real that it often exceeds the jolt factor of it actually happening. That’s not to say we’re not paid off by what does eventually occur. We certainly are. But those black and white scenes of the couple sleeping as our tension builds is something I won’t soon forget.
Sure there were flaws in Paranormal Activity. The hauntings early on – noise coming from downstairs – could easily be dismissed as the house settling. But when the demon becomes more physical, most people would call for help or at least get out of the friggin’ house. And although this is justified early on when the psychic insists the demon is attached to Katie and not the house, it’s still fairly ridiculous that they stay alone in the house, especially when a little Internet research and some illustrated demon books only warn of very bad things to come. Get some help people!
All in all though, Paranormal Activity grips us early on and the grip only tightens. Acting performances are so good they don’t seem like acting at all and even though it’s not technically a true story, it feels real enough for the audience to stayed glued to their seats even after the credits roll. Bravo.