Micah (Micah Sloat) and Katie (Katie
Featherston) are a young suburban couple with a supposedly idyllic
life. Except for one glaring fact; Katie is convinced a supernatural
presence is haunting their home. To this end the pair consult with a
psychic named Dr Friedrichs, who promptly declares the house inhabited
by an extremely malevolent entity he’ll have nothing to do with, and set
up a video camera in hopes of capturing footage of the evil sprite at
work. Needless to say their plan succeeds.
Paranormal Activity purports to
detail the harrowing occurrences caught on the couple’s video camera.
While it’s debatable whether the result constitutes ‘the scariest movie
of all time’ and the ‘found footage’ angle is a largely unnecessary
contrivance, the film certainly has more than a few edge-of-your-seat
moments. The supernatural phenomena are sparingly and effectively
rendered, making them all the more frightening, and some of the most
chilling scenes simply involve a seemingly possessed Katie standing
motionless for hours by the side of the bed.
Filmed in the director’s own house to save
on location costs and with dialogue being almost entirely improvised by
its two leads, Paranormal Activity remains a marvel of filmmaking
on a shoestring. Famously shot on a budget of some $15,000 and having
grossed over $100 million worldwide, it is now one of the most
profitable films of all time. The story of its inception is also
fascinatingly unorthodox. Its two leads, who were initially paid the
princely sum of $500 apiece, learned auditions were being held when
browsing Craigslist and first time filmmaker Oren Peli was reportedly
moved to make a film about the paranormal partly to conquer his lifelong
fear of ghosts. Considering this is the first outing for all involved
the performances are remarkably believable, and the two adroit young
leads interact like old pros, drawing the viewer into their world and
making the scary scenes all the more effective for their realism.
The Blu-ray release features both the
theatrical and alternate versions of the film, with the alternate cut
containing a different, arguably creepier ending than that shown in
cinemas. The audio commentary by the Israeli-born Peli provides an
interesting and insightful look into the art of cost-effective movie
making, and the BD transfer is also excellent considering the largely
handheld nature of the footage. Paranormal Activity is an
audacious and enjoyable horror film that relies on cleverly-contrived
atmosphere rather than mindless gore, and might just prove itself
this generation’s The Exorcist.