Halloween Week Reviews #1: PARANORMAL ACTIVITY

paranormal-activity-posterKate and Micah move into their first house together. They’re engaged and in love, and it’s an exciting time. Too bad an unseen demonic force has decided to haunt their house.

PARANORMAL ACTIVITY is filmed much like a faux documentary – a la THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT, except instead of showing us incredibly annoying kids running through the woods, the characters in PARANORMAL ACTIVITY are at least likable enough.  I have to admit, I enjoyed BLAIR WITCH the first time I saw it. But I am unable to watch it again. When I tried to sit through it a second time, I was so focused on how irritating the characters were (especially the incredibly whiny Heather) that I couldn’t get into the story. So it’s one of those movies that only works for me once. PARANORMAL ACTIVITY, however, is something I could easily sit through again.

The movie begins with Micah setting up a video camera to film what is going on in the house. The camera appears to be on 24/7 (especially when they’re sleeping, so they can watch it back the next day and see if anything weird was going on).  At first, they think the house might be haunted by a ghost, and call in a ghost expert. But the guy tells them he is sure it’s not a ghost, and they should contact a colleague of his who specializes in demonology.

While Kate believes something supernatural is going on, Micah is skeptical. He wants to solve the riddle himself, and thinks the camera is the way to do that.

As things get stranger and stranger, we get sucked into their story. Clearly something is very wrong. And the movie builds on the suspense and scares as it goes along.

I guess I’m a jaded old guy, because I didn’t find it that scary, but clearly I was alone in that. Several audience members screamed out loud when I saw it. I did find it tense and engrossing, though, as you look forward to see what happens next. And it’s got a really good ending.

This was one of those rare movies that almost slid totally under my radar. When it first came out, I hadn’t heard anything about it. Supposedly, it was a hit at the Slamdance Film Festival early this year (an indie alternative to the more mainstream Sundance festival), and it didn’t get a lot of hype before its release. The title doesn’t help, either. “Paranormal Activity” sounds really generic, like a bad reality show on the SyFy channel. So I really had no intention of seeing it at first. But several friends of mine kept telling me how good it was, and I had to check it out for myself. In the meantime, it has grown into a cult phenomenon. This small, indie flick has even made it to number one at the box office this past weekend, beating out standard Hollywood fare like SAW VI.

It’s the little movie that could. And it’s actually a pretty good flick.

Check it out.

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