Paranormal Activity Review

Posted: November 24, 2009 in Review
Tags: , , , , ,

Paranormal Activity Review

Before the review proper begins, please answer this simple question: are you scared of the dark? If the answer is yes, then this is a movie that is going to scare the everliving shit out of you. If the answer is no, then you weren’t going to watch this anyway, so let’s not waste time trying to win you over.

Twentysomething couple Micah and Katie believe they have a ghost in their house so Micah does what any rash young man would do: he buys a camera to document the goings on while they try to get rid of it.

If that sounds like a weak synopsis, that’s because there isn’t a story in any kind of the traditional sense. There is no script, there is no three act structure and there is no pacing. Things go bump in the night and that’s what you’re waiting for.

The movie is split into several chunks. In the day, the characters get their separate points across and all the exposition surrounding the ghost comes through. Micah is sceptical, a brash jock who actually wants the ghost to cause trouble so he can see it for himself. Katie, though, is the long-suffering woman and when the shit starts hitting the fan, you can see the fear in her eyes – it’s the same fear that’s rattling through yours.

At night, however, a slow dread falls over the film. As the spirit haunting them gets slowly more powerful and more vicious, the intensity of its actions picks up in speed and pace until you, like the characters, don’t want night to fall.

It’s a rare horror film these days that manages to actually horrify and the way it does it is delightfully simple: you care about the characters. They are so well rounded, so well performed, so believable and so raw and human that you’re almost watching yourself on screen. That’s you up there, shivering in fright – you don’t want terrible things to happen to you, do you? No, of course not, so the incredible arc the characters are forced to go through over the course of the days of film is one very similar to the audience’s own. Micah dismisses the psychic out of hand in his first visit. By the hour mark, both you and he are practically begging the psychic to walk back in and sort it all out.

On a filmmaking level, it’s utterly incredible. The film appears to have cost the price of the camera to make and the level of imagination on offer is simply astounding. Doors slam on their own, footprints appear on the floor, Katie is dragged screaming down the hallway and it’s so convincing that the part of your brain wondering just how this was made shuts up completely and hides in a corner sobbing in fright.

And then the film plays its trump card: just when you think you understand the rules of the game and the malevolent force watching over them, everything changes. In the interest of terror, this shall not be spoiled here, but it goes without saying that it’s a brown trousers moment.

The shortest and sweetest way to sum this film up – although it won’t do it any justice at all – is to call it ‘Blaire Witch in a House’. That should be enough to tell you whether or not this film is going to get under your skin and live there. It will if you let it, and in doing so you’ll experience something truly extraordinary: genuine fear. If not, continue sleeping soundly with the lights off, just don’t- OHMYGODWHATTHEHELLISTHA-

4 stars

  1. beckylucas says:

    Brilliant review! You’ve summed it well…and I’m glad to see that you didn’t give the ending away. A lot of people keep spoiling this film for others which is a shame.

  2. ad4m22 says:

    Thank you. It is a modern classic of true horror that deserves much praise.

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