Thursday, January 21, 2010

Paranormal Activity. B+

'Paranormal Activity' reinvents more than it invents. It takes some of the oldest spook tricks in the game and still manages to accumulate a bevy spine-tingling (to use a cliched phrase, yet entirely fitting here) moments. One can only praise the job that writer-director Oren Peli does with so little to work with. His sparse ingredients consists of an ordinary San Diego suburban home, two unprofessional actors, and a hand held video camera. With these he creates a movie so sneakily clever that it's hard not to feel like we're seeing the actual tapes of a couple haunted by a ghost. Set entirely in the San Diego home, 'Paranormal Activity' follows Katie and her boyfriend Micah, who fear there's some sort of ghost or demon in the house. Faucets randomly turn on, lights flicker, and scratches are heard upon the wall. Katie is rather worried, but Micah thinks its cool, so he decides to set up a camera in their bedroom at night so they can see if any spectral presence can be sighted. This is a unique setup, but in terms of the techniques used to scare the audience, well, as I said, they're nothing new. Yet the movie still feels original and the scary moments are executed perfectly. Peli takes it slowly, giving the audience small samples at a time. He does a tremendous job of building tension and by the end we're almost as freaked out as Katie and Micah. Made for supposedly just $15,000, 'Paranormal Activity' has become a phenomenon, much like 'The Blair Witch Project' ten years back. It's turned in a heavy profit of over a hundred million, enough for Paramount to call for a sequel (a terrible idea in my mind). 'Paranormal Activity' is not without its problems. I felt sort of cheated by the final scene rather than scared. And there are some other parts that went too far too early, mainly when a certain object catches on fire. But its easy to excuse the film's flaws. This is so well made and so refreshing compared to the slasher pictures we're accustomed to these days that it's hard not to embrace. That is, unless you're too scared to do so.

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