Friday, September 25, 2009

Review - Paranormal Activity

A couple move into a new house and begin to hear unexplained noises. Determined to discover the root of the eerie occurrences, the couple decide to begin filming their experiences within the San Diego home. Over the course of three weeks, the couple discover the frightening activity is steadily increasing leading up to a result the couple would have never possibly conceived.

"Paranormal Activity" proves that a horror film does not need a ton of gore and blood in order to give you a solid fright. The film instead relies on sound effects, shadow play and very minimal amount special effects to get the job done. The overall effect is stirring, leaving the viewer with a racing mind and a new found enthusiasm (or fear) for things that go bump in the night.

First time director Oren Peli made "Paranormal Activity" in 2006 with a no name cast in one week on a $15,000 budget. Despite having a only skeleton crew and very low-tech equipment, Peli is able to create a powerful horror film that is just as intense as some of the more costly horror films over the years. The film does suffer from some pacing problems and the acting is nothing that deserves high praise. That said, "Paranormal Activity" has a very authentic feel that is sure to grab your attention at all the right times.

The biggest strength in "Paranormal Activity" is it's intensity. The film doesn't play around when it comes to the scares and you know when something is about to happen. The film transitions through the couples recorded evenings starting with Night #1 moving up. Every time the couple would settle in for bed and the text would come up on the screen Night #3 or Night #7, you could feel the entire crowd in the theater bear down and prepare. Just as the entire theater would tense up, you could feel the crowd actually relax when the morning finally came around for the couple.

A few things that really helped the intensity created in "Paranormal Activity" was the sound effects, the lighting and the few tricks that film delivers. The effects used throughout are flawless, especially considering the low-tech nature of the movie. There is a steady progression to the noises and occurrences which get more predominant and more fearful within the 99 minute film. All of the effects used helped to create a very eerie experience, one that must be experienced in a theater with a crowd.

While this film will build off word of mouth and positive buzz as it has since 2007, be weary of seeing too much of "Paranormal Activity" before seeing it for yourself. I have to say that after watching the trailer and doing a bit of promotion for the film, I believe it played detriment to my overall fright. Simply, the trailer gives away some great stuff that should have been saved for cinemas.

Comparisons have been made (and will be made) to The Blair Witch Project and while both films were made on small budgets and are totally filmed on handheld cameras, "Paranormal Activity" delivers a completely different vibe. It has a very simple authenticity that makes for the complete event to be one thrilling and hair rising experience for all in attendance. It is a film that will have you thinking afterwards and (for some) it will have you noticing every little crick or crack that goes on in your house. On the flip side, "Paranormal Activity" had me hoping for more.

"Paranormal Activity" is spooky fun that is guaranteed to give you a few thrills. The film should play very well with 18 to 25 year-old audiences and to a certain extent older audiences as well. It's a film that needs to be seen with a crowd or at least not by your self. Some poor guy was sitting next to me and my wife at the Fantastic Fest screening at the ArcLight cinemas in Los Angeles and said, "GREAT! Now I have to drive home by myself!"