The Night Out: Paranormal Activity (2009), or GREAT! Now I’m Gonna Have Nightmares…

13 10 2009

Paranormal Activity is one of the most traumatic horror films of the decade, and if you don’t believe me, take a look at this decade’s horror; I guarantee you won’t find anything comparable. It seems like America has been waiting for quite some time to have their socks scared off of them. And from the genius ad campaign, to the realistic feel of the movie, to the concept itself, it seems like these guys knew they were making a winner. Don’t let your macho friends or the girl who walked out before the film finished tell you otherwise; this is something you ought to experience once. And I know I’m just adding to the hype machine by talking it up, thus giving you enlarged expectations and simultaneously larger opportunities for the movie to fail in your eyes, but I think this movie is strong enough to take some scrutiny on America’s part.

It’s an incredibly simple setup. Katie and Micah have been living together awhile now, and Micah has recently bought a camera to record the strange things that go on with his gal. You see, Katie has always felt a dark, ghostly presence in her life since she was little. It doesn’t come around often, but when it does, it royally freaks her out. So Micah, both curious and worried, decides to get a camera and tape he and Katie at night so he can see if there’s any hard evidence of this weird stuff happening. Well, at first, nothing happens at all, to Katie’s relief. But as the nights of filming go on, things begin to move on their own while they sleep, noises of invisible things coming up the stairs pick up on the audio, and Katie even does some odd things that she doesn’t even remember. It seems that something from another plane is trying to contact the couple, and it’s not exactly friendly. Can the two figure out what it is that’s attached to poor Katie, or is it too late to free themselves from whatever it is that’s shacked up with them?

It’s an incredibly intimate picture that makes the horror more deeply felt than any slasher film filled with disposable teens. It uses the found-footage format to tell a story in an engaging, emotional way. Half the movie is set during the daytime, when the two lovers try to make sense of what happened to them the night before, and that involves boyfriend Micah walking around the house following Katie with a camera and trying to comfort her. But the nighttime is where the movie switches to real-time, and we’re shown a static shot of their bedroom late, as increasingly weird things start to happen. It’s this dynamic that makes this and movies like The Blair Witch Project and The Last Broadcast so electrifying; they try to bring the horror close to home, close to the life you take with you when you leave the theaters. And Paranormal Activity is still very much alive in my terrified heart as I attempt to finish this review in the dead of night.

It is a breath of fresh air to see something that is not entirely dependent on BOO! scares and loud music. Paranormal Activity focuses almost solely in the realm of intensity and ratcheted suspense. There are hardly any gotcha moments or FX artist masturbation. It’s all about man’s crippling fear of the unknown; we don’t know what this thing is, what it wants, when it operates, and how the couple can get rid of it. Hell, most of the film’s horror takes place in a tiny section of hallway spilling out from the doorway in their bedroom that is completely pitch black. Not movie black, where there is the inexplicable ability to see things anyway; real-life scary black. That’s where all of our fears lie, the sheer force of the black and the night, and while I won’t give away any of what happened, I will say that the fears Katie and Micah have are not exactly unfounded.

Speaking of those two, they really should be praised for their work. Katie Featherston is amazing as the put-upon heroine Katie. She really keeps everything authentic. No overly dramatic touches, no subtleties to the performance that represent something from her painful past. She’s a regular human being like you and me, and so not every image of her bears some great and insightful meaning. Yet, in a way, as a professional actress, I suppose the greatest compliment I could give her is that she seemed very genuine. As for Micah Sloat, I applaud his efforts and appreciate how much of a douche he was on-screen. This character is a horrible guy! At every turn, his selfishness knows few bounds. He cares about Katie, but he also cares about trying to catch things on his cool new camera, so you’ll often see this guy looking for a good shot rather than checking on the love of his life. Good for us, bad for a relationship.

Oren Peli made something here that will hopefully breathe some life back into the horror genre, a genre that needs some serious CPR. Paranormal Activity is scary as hell, and you will not be able to look away as you cringe in terror from some of the more intense moments. Films like this and Noroi the Curse are introducing a new dynamic into today’s Hollywood that needs to be remembered for their use of the found footage with their inventiveness with the paranormal motif. I loved it, and I think you just need to see it for yourself, just once. I give Paranormal Activity 9 1/2 creepy static shots out of 10. A high recommendation! Go see it!

Whew! While you’re watching that tomorrow, I’ll be hard at work on my PSA for Stay! Until then!

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2 responses

14 10 2009
Doug Bonner

Thanks for the heads up. I’ve been in a horror movie mode lately. I’ll definitely catch this one.

15 10 2009
cinematronica

I hope you like it!!! I know I did

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