Movie Review: Paranormal Activity (A-)

paranormal_activity_posterForget aliens, vampires, and werewolves. Screw zombies and gremlins. And don’t even think about Nessie, Bigfoot or Freddy Krueger; Paranormal Activity scares the crap out of viewers by asking the simple and uncomfortable question: What happens when you sleep? One thing is for certain, after watching this movie last weekend in a theater packed with squealing girls and laughing dudes, not much happens when I sleep. Because I don’t anymore. I’m too busy looking for demons that are going to yank me out of bed in the wee hours of the morning and bite me on my keister. If I lived at home, I’d be sleeping with my parents.

If you’ve missed the buzz about Paranormal Activity, let me be the first to welcome you home from your trip to Mars. Director Oren Peli’s low-budget thriller has been a social media event. The marketing gurus behind the movie opened the picture in a few college towns and then encouraged theatergoers to spread the word by “tweeting their scream,” as well as petitioning people to “demand” Paranormal Activity come to their local theater. Considering the movie made $20 million last weekend in 760 theaters and Law Abiding Citizen made $21 million in 2,890 theaters, the word is spreading quickly and adamantly about how fun and scary Paranormal Activity is for audiences.

Katie points out the lurking shadow by the door.
Katie points out the lurking shadow by the door.

I can’t go too deeply into the details of the story, because I don’t want to ruin any of the surprises or scares, but the movie is pretty simple – it revolves around a young couple, Micah (Micah Sloat) and Katie (Katie Featherston), who are convinced their small San Diego home is infested with some spook or specter. Michah sets up a camera and a high frequency microphone in their bedroom to record the sights and sounds of whatever is causing the strange happenings in their home. They also have a psychic come to their abode and he confirms to the couple what they have been dreading all along: a demon is living with them and they better not piss it off.

Micah and Katie contemplate getting the HELL out!
Micah and Katie contemplate getting the HELL out!

In a logical, normal world, this freaky film would end right now, but of course Micah and Katie continue to sleep under the same roof as the malevolent ghost and Micah takes great joy in heckling and provoking the demon, much to Katie’s protest. Come to find out, this thing has been following Katie her whole life. As Micah points out toward the end of the movie, this might have been a good thing to share with him before they decided to live together. Micah has a good point. I don’t care how hot a girl is, if she’s got some angry ghost on her six, I’m staying far, far away.

Part of what makes Paranormal Activity so creepy is the director’s actual fear of ghosts. That’s how he conceived of the concept and is something I think all of us fear deep down. That feeling of someone looking at you, standing next to you, but yet nobody is in the room. And it’s enough to make all of us develop gooseflesh in a matter of nanoseconds. Every bump and noise I hear nowadays late at night makes me have a Depends moment.

Micah has made the demon reaaalllly pissed.
Micah has made the demon reaaalllly pissed.

This film is a true success story and I’m happy for critical reception and financial gain Peli is earning. It cost him $15,000 to make and was shot in Peli’s house over the course of seven days. He didn’t use a script, didn’t have a camera crew (because the movie is shot via handheld or a tripod mounted camera), and editing and the addition of visual effects all occurred simultaneously while they filmed throughout the week. Once it was finished, it made the rounds at various film festivals and was snagged by DreamWorks. There is a rumor that Steven Spielberg loved the movie, but was convinced it was haunted, because after viewing the DVD, his bedroom doors locked and he couldn’t get out without the aid of locksmith. At any rate, Paranormal Activity found its way to Paramount Pictures, and now, this weekend, it’s available for you at the University Stadium 6 theaters in Logan.

Is it the movie for you? Remember those words I mentioned earlier in my review – fun and scary – because if you go into Paranormal Activity looking for top-notch acting and a deep, moving story, you’ll be disappointed. The movie is the cinematic equivalent of a well-done haunted house. Whether you scream or laugh, you will enjoy yourself and that’s a great thing to have as we get closer to Halloween.

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