screened for the press last night at AMC Studio 30, and by the looks of the crowd this may be one of the only reviews you'll see in Houston, as everyone else appears to have been "Caller Number 9" on an FM radio station. They, and many people you know have petitioned Paramount Pictures to bring the film to town for a long time now. It's been circulating the globe for two years now supposedly being brought to each market via an online petition from fans. I'm skeptical of this but I'm sold on the film.
We open as Micah (Micah Sloat) turn on his expensive handheld video camera for the first time, and the entire movie is seen from the video camera's point of view. We learn that Micah is a day trader and his live-in girlfriend, Katie (Katie Featherston), is a university student. Soon a paranormal psychologist visits the couple's beautiful suburban house and the exposition begins. Katie has been followed by a very frightening door slamming ghost for most of her life. Micah is a confident, successful stock trader who makes a joke of the whole thing, but keeps the camera running the entire movie. Remember that 100% of this film is seen thru the camera's point of view (POV to you and me). The psychologist moves the story along by "getting to know the couple" and quickly informing them that, good news/bad news, its not a ghost, it's a demon. Demons, he says, are dangerous and he is too scared to stay a moment longer. BUT on his way out the door he informs the couple that leaving will do no good, and that they should stay in their home until a qualified "demonologist" arrives from overseas. Which is convenient, because for a film with a $15,000 budget, leaving the home would present all sorts of unwelcome lighting and audio challenges.
So the ground rules are established. Stay in the home and don't call for help. And so we wander around the home for an hour without much happening. We literally watch the couple sleep for a surprising amount of time. A girlfriend visits. They eat breakfast. They remind each other of the ground rules. Every four or five nights, the "demon" makes an appearance by slamming a door, or just moving the door a few inches. He smashes a picture frame, pounds on a wall, and generally scares the couple into..... doing nothing at all. They just go on about their lives, videotaping themselves even while they sleep, and watching the footage the following morning over breakfast. The couple fights over Katie's belief that they need to seek more help, and Micah's archetypical belief that he can handle the situation himself with just his video camera. The scary moments are always successful if too far apart, and the banter between the couple is often very funny. Every joke works, and every scare is awarded a huge scream from the audience. The achievement of the film is that it is claustrophobic, taking place entirely within a 3 bedroom house in San Diego. Nobody in the movie is well known, so the audience easily believes the drama as seen through this handheld camera. Probably because Katie consistently asks Micah to "turn it off!", "get that camera out of my face", etc.
Paranormal Activity is a very scary movie with the best frights saved for the end. It's really an achievement to have made such a successful, tense horror for such a small amount of money. It's a slow build to get to the punchline, as it were, but if you like horror, and if you signed the petition to get it brought to Houston, then it's definitely worth it.
Paranormal Activity is in theaters now
Produced, Directed and Edited by Oren Peli
Starring Katie Featherston and Micah Sloat
Running Time is 99 minutes
Distributed by Paramount Pictures and Dreamworks Pictures
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