Paranormal Activity

Director: Oren Peli (2007)
Starring: Katie Featherston, Micah Sloat, Mark Fredrichs
Find it: IMDB, Amazon

A whining girl and her horrible, obnoxious boyfriend are stalked at night by a bullyish demon who tramples around their house setting fire to ouija boards and slamming doors as he goes.

After years of uninterest and not a little horror snobbery, I finally caved and decided to watch Paranormal Activity. I hoped it would be rubbish just so I could use the "Paranormal Craptivity" joke I've been saving. Alas, whilst Paranormal Activity is hardly original or groundbreaking, it's not all that bad either.

The first thing that comes to mind watching this is a very heavy Blair Witch influence. It's pretty much a remake of The Blair Witch Project if the kids had decided to stay in bed instead of going camping. It boasts a cast of unknowns and consists entirely of footage recorded by the protagonists themselves. During the day, Katie (Katie) and Micah (Micah) carry the camera around to record their annoying day-to-day nonsense. At night, it sits in the bedroom recording them as they sleep. Not in a kinky way.

If you've seen Most Haunted or any of those terrible Ghosthunting programmes, well, Paranormal Activity plays exactly like that. I have friends who remain convinced to this day that Paranormal Activity is a documentary. You'd have thought that Derek Acorah could have made an effort. There is a psychic in this movie, but he's useless. Whilst Katie's Demon is at first content to go around slamming doors and turning the TV on and off, Micah soon antagonises it into further action. Which, to be fair, did actually shit me up.

The movie's escalation into proper scares is very impressive. It starts out amusingly enough, letting you get to know (and in the case of the horrible boyfriend, hate) the characters, with a couple of mild chills here and there. Then it gets a bit more serious - creepier and more tense than I was expecting - before finally hitting the mark with some proper scares. It is every bit as creepy and unsettling as I'd heard it was. I actually found it more chilling than The Blair Witch. Although I have always thought that The Blair Witch is tremendously overrated, so that's not saying much (its horrible sequel somehow gave me nightmares though, so kudos).

This film too, seems almost unworthy of its success. It's all cheap parlour tricks, its scares coming at the detriment of plausibility and characters. Micah, in particular, is painted as a massive douche. Forget the Demon, he's the real villain of the piece. He's arrogant, annoying, stupid and I fail to see how any girl could bear to share a house with him. He winds the Demon up every step of the way and, y'know what, I can sympathise. Paranormal Activity loses a Scream Queen for Micah alone, possibly the most horrible character I have ever encountered in a movie like this. The pair together are all stupid decisions and passivity. Not once do they seem to consider sleeping with the lights on, buying a crucifix or even just going for a walk. Shit, by day two I'd be on the phone to an Exorcist, let alone day thirteen.

Paranormal Activity is a very scary movie - yes, even terrifying sometimes - but its strings are too visible for me to enjoy this in the same way I did [Rec]. Even The Blair Witch had good characterisation and a modicum of plausibility. For all of its considerable shocks and thrills, this feels manipulative. That said, I will be sleeping with the light on tonight.

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