October 8, 2009

Paranormal Activity | Movie Review

Shawn Lebert Says Once in a while, there comes a film that sweeps the nation off its feet. However, without an international--let alone a national release--Paranormal Activity isn’t doing much sweeping. Only major cities within the United States, like New York and Los Angeles, were granted the opportunity to experience the film firsthand with special screenings to the public. In its current state, the hype-propelled heat is rising for this film that’s merely waiting to go nationwide if the demand is met.

Paranormal Activity is much like the successor to the Blair Witch Project back in 1999. The film has the Blair Witch Project’s documentary style narrative and has the same perspective in this low-budget fright-fest. The story is about a young couple, Micah and Katie, who live on the West coas in a nice suburban home. Micah, the curious investigator, decides to tape the paranormal activity that occurs within the home from time to time.

As the genre entails, all the shots are from Micah’s personal camcorder, and the two characters from the film are the only ones that adjust and move the camera angles. This choice of camera work keeps it personal--albeit jerky--and those of you who get disoriented easily should be warned. The audience never feels bombarded with the unconscious suspension of thought that this is an actual film, made with an actual cast and crew.

Both Micah and Katie become characters the audience can associate with, as their fun and quirky attitudes give off a few laughs here and there throughout the film. Believe it, you’ll need the laughter as the film is set up in two distinct areas: the day and nighttime. As all films generally have day and night sequences, the audience will quickly see the fine line between the scares at night and the relief of the day. Each night, Micah sets up the camcorder to record the entire evening when they sleep to see what they catch on screen. As the nights go by, the evenings get worse and worse with moments that are indeed caught on tape.

As if it were a surprise, there is something going on within the house, and as Micah scans through the footage from the night before, he attempts to find a solution. The film is free from gimmicky moments for the most part. You won’t see pop-outs that you’d expect from other films. The development surrounding the scares definitely will creep you out. Less is definitely more. As the night sequences approach, prepare for your hearts to suddenly start pounding, hoping to God that the next scene comes up soon and reveals that it’s day, because the creators behind Paranormal Activity have crafted scares that aren’t impossible to happen.

There isn’t a score underneath the film, so don’t expect frightful moments to be expressed through stroked keys on a piano or a plucked violin. The only hint of music is right before the scares occur, and this sound is a very deep, vibrating bass line, telling you that the scare is coming, so you better get ready. That completely contrasts from other films where pop-out moments are generally silent before the sound ramps up 40,000 decibels.

There are many, many positive things that this film does and showing less always makes it more effective. However, one personal problem with it is that while it is an exciting film, these two characters are very unbelievable in some really terrifying moments. That’s a pretty distinct problem, and with that comes horrible consequences that these two should have taken more time to prepare for. Although we are supposed to suspend our disbelief because while anyone in their right mind would have just left the house to begin with, these two have devised the plan that no matter what happens--as horrible as the paranormal activity gets--they’ll still sleep there. This review won’t spoil anything, because you’ll want it to be revealed on your own, but much trust is betrayed between the couple, which causes more catastrophes within the home. As serious as this activity is happening to Katie, she easily brushes off the “mistakes” that her boyfriend does and vice-versa, and it doesn’t seem logical.

Paranormal Activity clearly stands out from other horror films in its unique approach to scares. It’s worth seeing if you’re ever given the opportunity. While it’s hyped to be the “scariest film ever,” it is scary and does haunt the mind but it’s very hard to believe it’s the scariest. The ending to Paranormal Activity might be difficult to swallow, because that was yet another personal issue where it did end up becoming a little cliché. There could have been tons of more frightening ways to end it, but the last five seconds will have you coming out of the film knowing it was nothing more than just a film.