Paranormal Activity

posted Oct 20, 2009, 4:34 PM by Jeff Brandt   [ updated Feb 6, 2010, 10:54 PM ]
Indie horror triumphs again!

After waiting the requisite couple of years to escalate distribution from

regional horror fests to wide international release, film rookie Oren Peli has finally reached success with Paranormal Activity. This past weekend, with Cloudy with a Chance plummeting like a fumbled plate of meatballs, Peli's small cast, micro-budget picture rose up a notch to third in the U.S. box office.

Some spoilers within this official trailer. Do not watch if you want to go in fresh.


Even if you haven't seen it, you probably know the gist already. It's a fiction film done in documentary style, complete with shaky handheld digital cameras. You know, like Blair Witch Project (1999). Except this one features an even smaller cast of unknowns, most notably the young, engaged San Diego couple of Katie and Micah (character names based on the actors' actual first names -- the actors' surnames being Featherstone and Sloat, respectively).

When you boil it down to bare ingredients, the narrative addresses the dangerous extremes men take to impress and protect their mates. And to amuse themselves. And muck things up in the process . . . What's bugging Katie, you ask? No matter where she lives, no matter how far she moves, paranormal episodes follow her. So Micah, in keeping with the trend of shows like Syfy's Ghost Hunters and Travel Channel's Ghost Adventures, rigs up some night-vision digital cameras and EVP mics. What follows . . . well, you should really go see it yourself.

If you watch the movie, come back to this blog, and want to complain that it wasn't scary enough (like so many clowns on Twitter), then I can't help you. The strength's of Peli's brand of horror is not -- like in most slashers and torture porn flicks -- the extent of the violence, but in its realism. I'm not going to lie and say I jumped at any point during the movie, but upon walking out of the theater in a daze, I did feel thoroughly creeped out for the remainder of the day and much of the next.

On a final note, you would think a successful horror flick in the same vein as Blair Witch would have taken less than a decade to crop up. Or maybe that's how long you have to wait to mimic a very recognizable style? Fortunately, Peli spares us the snotty-nosed closeup and the fake website (which has since been changed).


10/27/09 update: Paranormal Activity is now #1 in the U.S. box office, with Where the Wild Things Are slipping to #3. By coincidence, I finally got to watch Spike Jonze's adaptation of Maurice Sendak's classic children's book. My mom was right to remark that it's not a kids' movie, not what she expected . . . If that's your criteria for a successful adaptation, then you'll be disappointed. But all the same, Sendak himself approved of it and even helped produce the film, and I think it's a very honest effort. Let's be real: children's lives are not like children's movies. Maybe the problem is not with Spike Jonze but with the superficiality of most kiddie flicks. The Wild Things may be scary for kids, but wasn't life as a kid scary, too?


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