Review of Paranormal Activity
Saturday, August 28, 2010 • 8:52am
The tagline in promos for this horror movie proclaims, "Don't see it alone." Well whether you want to see Paranormal Activity alone or with a group friends, it's worth your time and money.
Artfully filmed in a pseudo-documentary style, this film, like all effective shockers, is entertainingly disquieting. The premise is a familiar one in spooky films -- a young couple moves into a seemingly ordinary house where they are subsequently disturbed by peculiar happenings.
But director Oren Peli's execution of this conceit is unique. He employs a one-person-with-a-camera gimmick. The entire movie is shot from the perspective of a home video camera: the boyfriend Micah (Micah Sloat) uses it to try to record the eerie phenomena that seems to plague the house when he and his companion Katie (Katie Featherston) are asleep.
Peli, who also wrote the screenplay, is not entirely successful in handling this concept. Featherston and Sloat as the couple are believably ordinary, coming across as regular people you may see in your neighborhood rather than as actors. But you never see them outside their house at work or at social activities and you never see them contact friends or relatives to help them deal with their problems.
So even though the actors are credible performers, their situation isn't. But Peli compensates for these plot holes with his realistic presentation of the film's scares. In his fidelity to Paranormal Activity's faux documentary style, Oren eschews blatant shock techniques, building up the horror in a low-key and restrained manner. The deliberate lack of a musical score makes the terror all the more unsettling; you witness an eerie situation as something that could actually occur in real life instead of as a melodramatic contrivance in a traditional fright flick.
Peli enhances Paranormal Activity's suspense with a conflict between the couple over how to handle the crisis. Katie believes the supernatural forces in the house have haunted her all her life and should be treated respectfully. But Micah is indifferent to her worries, only concerned with trying to document them with his video camera.
As the film continues to unreel, these phantasmic incidents take a spiritual toll on them and you fully empathize with their despair. It makes sense to see Paranormal Activity now since Halloween is coming up. But it's such a fascinating and spellbinding film, that it's worth seeing any time.
Now playing at Clearview Beacon Hill 5 in Summit and the Rialto in Westfield, it is rated R for language, intense themes, and suggested violence.
Raymond Valinoti, Jr. is a resident of Berkeley Heights, NJ. He has a Master's in Library Science from Rutgers University and is a freelance researcher. His articles on film have been published in the magazines Midnight Marquee and Films of the Golden Age. He can be reached by email at email@example.com, through Twitter at http://twitter.com/rayvalinoti, and through Facebook at Raymond Valinoti
Raymond Valinoti, Jr. is a librarian, freelance writer and researcher. He writes movie reviews for TheAlternativePress.com
The opinions expressed herein are the writer's alone, and do not reflect the opinions of TheAlternativePress.com or anyone who works for TheAlternativePress.com. TheAlternativePress.com is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the writer.