14 October 2009

Paranormal Activity

Written & Directed by: Oren Peli
Full credits at IMDb

Paranormal Activity is a trend-bucker: rather than trade in horror's presently fashionable buckets of blood, this low-budget, lo-fi debut from writer-director Peli returns horror to its purest essence: it provokes a Times Square theater's worth of "holy shit"s and "what the fuck"s through the simplest manipulations of form. Creaking doors, heavy footfalls, passing shadows and rustling sheets—all captured by a punishingly motionless camera—trigger the seat squirming here, the digging of the fingernails into the elbow rests, the tightened embraces of jolted couples.

Katie Featherston and Micah Sloat play a young couple, recently moved in together, that experiences eerie shit at night: the result, we soon find out, of a demon that has been haunting Katie since girlhood. (Unlike other haunted house movies, then, it doesn't matter whether the couple leaves or not: the demon will simply follow them. Neat narrative trick, that.) The film plays out, like The Blair Witch Project—to which it has been frequently compared—in grainy video: we're watching Micah's roughly month-long document of their lives. By day, he films snippets of he and his girlfriend's arguments and expository discussions; by night, he leaves the camera on a tripod, running in the corner of the bedroom, in order to capture anything weird that might happen. Lucky for us (not so much for she and him), a whole lot of weird stuff does occur.

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