Log in Register
 
RSS Feed Twitter MySpace Facebook Digg Flickr Delicious YouTube
Paranormal Activity
UKScreen Rating:

Paranormal Activity – Review

WHAT’S IT ABOUT?

Katie and Micah are a likeable young couple from San Diego, with a bright life ahead of them.
There’s just one niggling little detail which is worrying Katie.
She’s almost embarrassed to admit that she feels like their house is being haunted – or more accurately – SHE is being haunted.
To put her mind at rest – and for his own puerile enjoyment and to give himself a chance to play with his gadgets – Micah decides to set up a video camera in their bedroom and leave it filming all night, to see if anything happens while they’re sleeping.
After a few ghostly experiences, Katie calls in an exorcist, who warns them that he can’t do anything about the evil spirit and advises them not to play with it, as it will only make it stronger.
As the nights tick by, the couple get more and more worried about what they see and feel.
They’re playing a dangerous game.

WHAT’S IT LIKE?

This is one of those films that’s being carried on a wave of hype – but it’s also – happily – a film that lives up to its hype.
The first hype is that it was shot for 11,000, or thereabouts. No-one disputes this. It looks cheap; as I’ll get to shortly, that’s necessarily part of what makes it so authentic, like its clear predecessor The Blair Witch Project. But unlike the recent British film Colin, which claimed to have been made for £45, this was almost certainly true to its budget and doesn’t try to underplay its real costs.
As with The Blair Witch Project, the film-makers cleverly came up with a story that fitted a low budget, thereby justifying correspondingly low production values (we’re watching footage shot by the main characters on their own video cameras).
Like Blair Witch, the budget was kept down by limiting cast (here, two unknown and so totally authentic lead actors with one supporting character) and locations (mostly in the director’s own house, with one shot in the front garden and one shot out back) and coming up with a simple story – much of the film is just watching the couple sleep.
And that brings me to the second hype – that it’s scary – and it is. As long as you steer clear of the trailers and adverts, there will be plenty of shocks and surprises.
It looks cheap and much of the time it’s parochial and disarmingly boring. Watching a couple discussing nothing much as they cook their dinner isn’t particularly interesting. And watching night-vision footage of them sleeping from a fixed camera, like overnight Big Brother, broadcasts seems so frustratingly dull that when things finally start to go bump in the night, it’s all the more shocking, unexpected and effective.
Playing with some camera tricks, such as time-lapse, also makes you question what you’re watching and when the final, shocking denouement approaches, enough clues are laid in advance to give you the satisfaction of being able to work out what’s coming if you want to, without detracting from the horror.
The story goes that the director Oren Peli presented the film to financiers, with a view to raising enough money to reshoot it on a proper budget, only to be told that it’s the cheap look that adds authenticity.
Whether that story is true – the sentiment certainly is – it’s necessarily cheap and boring – this simplicity serves to increase the tension and surprise – which is what makes it work so well.
One final suggestion: if this is your type of thing, it’s worth seeing this with an audience of like-minded people, as it’s very much a case of everyone jumping together.

Opens nationwide 27th November 2009

Comments

comments

Tagged with:

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Skip to toolbar