Yes, for those who don't know by now, Paranormal Activity is this year's Blair Witch Project.
Remember Blair Witch? Supposedly, some twentysomethings went looking for a supernatural being and recorded their search on videotape. Those people were lost and only their tapes were found.
This film is the same thing. Only difference is that this one takes place all inside a very nice, San Diego home.
Micah Sloat says he's a day trader. Katie Featherston says she's only a student. They live in a well-furnished, 2-story, three-bedroom house. Micah buys a high-end, video camera, which he said will only cost him half of what he makes in a day.
In a later scene, Micah jokes about needing stock tips. However, money doesn't seem to be a concern for him. Not much seems to concern Micah. Even when his live-in girlfriend, Katie, is scared that either a ghost or demon is haunting her, Micah isn't the least bit worried.
Micah instead jokes around. At first, it's out of skepticism, as any average twentysomething probably would feel. Yet, that all changes when his camera starts to capture signs of an actual, evil spirit. Micah then becomes genuinely curious.
For a month, starting in September and ending in October 2006, Micah proceeds to document on video their bedroom, which becomes the focal point of the demonic activity. For that month, the camera records various disturbing instances. Some are really scaring. Others are just puzzling.
What starts out as funny home movies eventually becomes terrifying and creepier as time goes on. Director Oren Peli utilizes conventional horror film tactics effectively, including shadows and slamming doors.
I think he also effectively utilizes this idea of first-person-shooter filmmaking. Since Blair Witch set the precedent, there have been several horror films that have been structured on the premise that in order to seem more real and more authentically scary, the movie has to be as if a character in it is the one filming the whole thing. What we're watching is that person's found footage.
This style of filmmaking, this Blair Witch, found-footage structure, has now become its own subgenre among horror filmmakers. Paranormal Activity doesn't embrace all the blood, gore, and special effects as recent entries in this subgenre like Diary of the Dead (2008) and Cloverfield (2008).
Obviously, it couldn't. This independently made movie reportedly only had a budget of $15,000. However, since it was bought by Paramount Pictures at a film festival last year and released into theaters on September 25th, it has earned $61 million, as of October 26, besting the new release on Oct. 23 of Saw VI.
I love it when an indie film that's been playing for over a month beats a brand new yet unoriginal studio sequel at the box office.
This may signal that this horror subgenre or style of filmmaking, which basically makes movies seem more amateurish, will grow. I think that this subgenre is a great one for indie filmmakers to embrace. However, it's a genre whose half-life has long since passed for me. The novelty has worn off. Let Paranormal Activity be the last one for a long while!
All that being said, Peli's movie is interesting and does its job as a scary movie of delivering frights. It's like a less technical version of Poltergeist, if Carol Ann had grown up to be a brunette, and moved to San Diego with her cynical boyfriend.
Four Stars out of Five
Rated R for language
Running Time: 1 hr. and 26 mins.