The Flick Chicks

Judy Thorburn's Movie Reviews

Paranormal Activity

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Paranormal Activity –   Over Hyped, but Impressive Ghost Story

The last time I can remember a movie getting such pre-opening hype about it being the scariest film ever was when the Exorcist was about to be released in 1973.  Word was that the flick was so terrifying, pregnant woman and people with heart conditions were forewarned not to see it.  

Now, over three decades later, along comes another supernatural thriller that according to publicity press releases and from the reactions of test audiences, is supposed to be the scariest movie of all time.  That’s a strong statement with enormous shoes to fill.  After seeing Paranormal Activity for myself, I have to say, it is suspenseful, often intense, has its share of chills, but hardly the scariest film of all time. Don’t get me wrong. That isn’t to say I didn’t like it, because I did. Just don’t be fooled by the exaggerated hype.

Filmed documentary style with a hand held camera, the story takes place in 2006 and focuses on just two characters. Katie Featherston is a student and her boyfriend Micah Sloat (that’s their real names) is a day trader. Three years into their relationship, the engaged couple move into a two story home in suburban San Diego. Katie soon reveals that ever since she was a young girl she has experienced a strange entity that has haunted and followed her no matter where she has lived.  She soon begins to sense that the ghost, spirit, or demon, has come back to terrorize her in the home she and Micah share.

A visit from a psychic (Michael Bayouth) isn’t much help as he only offers advice not to aggravate the entity or try to make contact, adding that negative vibes would only make it worse. Micah makes light of the situation and though a skeptic, he decides to take the matters into his own hands and sets up his new expensive toy, a video camera, mounted on a tripod in their bedroom and record with a time lapse code anything strange that occurs after they fall asleep at night.  That’s when all the spooky stuff starts happening.  In a slow gradual buildup, it becomes more and more apparent that something ominous has invaded their space, forcing Micah to become a true believer.

It begins with strange sounds, lights flickering, and objects like the bedroom door and the living room chandelier moving on their own.  Micah borrows a Ouija board, and one night while he and Katie are out, the leaves of plants beginning blowing in the living room though no window is open, followed by the Ouija board curser moving by itself before it is suddenly is set ablaze.   The events intensify over a two week period causing the young couple to become agitated.  They start to fight, though terrified and living in fear as what will happen next. Before long, Katie starts exhibiting strange behavior.  In the middle of the night, she gets up suddenly from a sound sleep, only to stand still at the edge of the bed for a long period of time.  

There are extended periods when nothing happens at all,  which some might find unnerving. Writer/director/editor Oren Peli, takes a minimalist approach and what he accomplishes is remarkable, considering he shot the film on a shoe string budget of only $15,000.  Instead of employing special effects and the use of blood and gore, he plays more with your head, relying on suggestion and your imagination to create a sense of terror.  The realistic dialogue is matched by convincing, true to life performances by the two stars, unknown actors who act exactly as you would expect under the circumstances and situations. They do a bang up job carrying the film from beginning to end with never a false note.   Their only mistake (blame it on the script) is in not calling in an exorcist when it is clear they are in dire need for him to get rid of the demonic spirit so they can move on with their lives.

Like 1999’s Blair Witch Project which cost a pittance to make and became a box office smash, Paranormal Activity appears to follow in its footsteps. Due to the sold out response at midnight screenings across the country, and overwhelming demand from people who want this film to play in their city, the film was given the green light to open nationwide and play for a regular screening schedule.

So while director Peli makes an impressive film debut, PA didn’t cause me to have nightmares, nor feel afraid to be alone in my house.  In other words, Paranormal Activity is a pretty good ghost story, just in time for Halloween, but nothing to really scream about.
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