Paranormal Activity (***)

Posted on November 1st, 2009 in Engineerboy,Movie Reviews by EngineerBoy

Three's A Crowd

First, about the hype.  This is one creepy and disturbing movie.  It may not be the scariest movie I’ve ever seen, but it’s in the top ten.  The fact that it delivers such a wild ride but was made for less than $20,000 borders on amazing.

The plot is simple – Katie has been sporadically plagued with things going bump in the night her whole life.  She now lives with her boyfriend Micah, and recently she has started noticing strange happenings once again.  Micah, being the typical male, figures that the best way to respond is to buy some new electronics, and so as the film begins he as just come home with a brand-new, high-def video camera and sound recorder which he proudly explains (multiple times) he has connected via firewire to his laptop to document the events.  Then, if they are actually happening they will have proof, but if the tapes show nothing, it will serve to help Katie understand that nothing is actually happening.

That seems reasonable, except for the fact that Micah’s meddling and problem solving only serve to piss “it” off, and so matters begin to escalate.  They consult a ghost expert, who is helpful and friendly, sort of like Tim Gunn if he were on Project RunAway!  However, once the expert figures out that the malevolent entity is a demon instead of a ghost, he gets the hell out of there, leaving Micah and Katie phoning for help from what appears to be the only practicing demonologist in Southern California (ha!), who conveniently happens to be out of town until after the movie is over.

The entire film takes place on their property, from the opening shots of Micah filming Katie pulling into their driveway, to random handheld shots around the house, typical family films from the backyard pool, and most disturbingly, tapes of them sleeping, filmed with the camera completely stationary on a tripod in the corner of the bedroom, in night vision.  Yes, that’s where the fun begins.

The film does a great job of ratcheting up the tension, night after night after night.  We learn from the film that since this is a demon who is fixated on Katie, it wouldn’t help for them to leave, because the issue doesn’t have to do with the house, but with Katie, and the demon would simply follow them.  So, they surf the web and read books and try to figure out what to do.  How successful they turn out to be I will leave as an exercise for the viewer.

The actors who play Micah and Katie do a great job of seeming like a typical, young, upwardly-mobile couple.  Their house looks freshly decorated, and doesn’t have a “lived in” look.  He’s a day trader, she’s a student, he plays guitar, she does bead-work and knitting.  They seem perfectly natural on-screen, just the way all of us look and act when self-consciously filming ourselves with home video equipment.