Directed by Oren Peli
Written by Oren Peli
Starring Katie Featherston, Micah Sloat, Ashley Palmer, Mark Fredrichs, Amber Armstrong
Here’s a review I wrote for PARANORMAL ACTIVITY from 2007 after hosting a premiere of the film for AICN at the Music Box Theater in Chicago, IL. It was one of the first horror reviews I wrote and really harkens back to when the PARANORMAL ACTIVITY franchise first grabbed a hold of the horror world by the throat. Enjoy this trip to yesteryear. I’m curious about revisiting it and seeing how well the film holds up now, but until then, enjoy the below!
So is the movie all hype? In a word…Hellz no.
PARANORMAL ACTIVITY is a smart film that knows when to tingle your spine and when to go for the jugular. It’s one of those movies that slowly progresses down a bone-chilling path. With each meticulous step, more terrors are revealed and the sense of dread becomes thick in the air. I sat in a jam packed theater and as this movie continued its spiral into horror, you could hear a pin drop. The crowd was that into this film.
And that’s the thing. This is definitely a movie to be experienced in a theater. Sure seeing it in the comforts of your own home when this eventually comes out on DVD is an experience that will be most likely memorable and effective given the fact that the setting of the movie is in a home itself, but living through this movie with a crowd of people gasping and screaming in tandem…damn it’s just an experience too fun to miss.
Although I don’t want to give away too much of the movie, I will give a quick rundown of what most of you probably know about the film. The story follows a young couple who have been experiencing things that are…just not right. We soon find out that the young female has been plagued by mysterious paranormal activity since she was a small child. The husband decides to play amateur Ghost Hunter, buys a camera, and sets it up at night to catch any weirdness going on. The rest of the movie follows this couple through their horrifying encounters with unknown forces.
Again, I don’t want to reveal much, but what is caught on tape is increasingly spooky as every second of this film progresses on the screen. Each night builds on the next as the interactions between the couple intensify during the day. It gets to the point where you are dreading the repeated night set up scene with the camera pointing at the couple sleeping in bed, timer running on the bottom right corner, door open showing the dark hallway outside of the room.
And that’s where the audience comes in. As every night scene began, the audience groaned. This wasn’t a “ho hum, this scene again?”groan, this was an “oh shit, what kind of scary shit am I going to experience now!” groan. Experiencing this in the theater with all of the folks sharing the same thought was fantastic. The camera fades in to the night scene. The audience whispers, groans, and maybe giggles a bit. The temperature of the theater rises. And then some scary @$$ shit happens.
I have to commend on the patience of the director of this movie. Never did things feel rushed. Never was there too much revealed or two little. This is a terrifying march right up until the end of the movie. And I’m sure there are those who will be frustrated with the end of the film, but I wasn’t. Given the fact that not many folks have seen it, there’s no way I’m revealing it here (maybe I’ll write up a follow up review of this once more people have seen it). But to me, the film ended in a logical way; a successful climax that honors the rules set out throughout the film and pays off with a wicked creepiness that will leave you shuddering long after the film is over.
Do you know that feeling? The one where you’re alone at night and all of a sudden you get the sense that you’re not alone? Maybe there’s a noise or just a general sense of paranoia. You know the feeling. PARANORMAL ACTIVITY harnesses that feeling by making you care about the characters and then putting them through such an emotional and physical ringer that you can’t help but feel for them. You’ve got to like the couple for the movie to work and the young unknowns in the lead role make it surprisingly easy to root for them to survive. They are cocky, fun pair of folks. Definitely not deserving of the shit that goes down in the film. And that makes it all the more scary, in my book.
Like I said, I wouldn’t be writing this if I didn’t love the movie. I have no personal investment in this film other than a genuine love for all things horror and the burning desire to see more good horror films in theaters. PARANORMAL ACTIVITY is definitely one I want to see again and I hope this movie is successful because that means we’ll get more like it and less sequel/remake/reimaginings. If you like horror, PARANORMAL ACTIVITY is the one to see this Halloween season. Nothing out there so far compares to it this year.