Quickie Review: Paranormal Activity

Guys, Paranormal Activity is really good! Why didn’t any of you tell me?!

haha! Okay, just kidding. You totally did tell me. Repeatedly. But I was busy! And now that I’ve finally seen it, I can say with authority—DANG! You weren’t lying!

Paranormal Activity has a beautifully simple premise: Katie and Micah live together and have been experiencing some spooky bumps in the night. They set up a camera and start documenting the events. This straightforward scenario allows for a minimum cast, raw footage, one location, and a budget of—get this: ELEVEN THOUSAND DOLLARS! And it grossed over $100 MILLION! Because it is scary as hell!

Writer/director Oren Peli is incredibly adept at creating terror by the lightest touch: a shadow moving across the door, a light turning on in the other room, a sheet lifting breezily off the bed. The film is frighteningly austere. Peli also wins my heart by making Paranormal Activity  only 86 minutes. Genius! The action builds steadily and smoothly with no minutiae to weigh it down.

Of course, all the skilled filmmaking in the world would be wasted on the wrong leads. Katie Featherstone and Micah Sloat are likable, comfortable and genuine in their roles. They live easily in these performances, flirting and fighting and fearing authentically. The dialogue is entirely improvised, making for a natural, voyeuristic feel. It feels wrong to watch this movie, to experience their terror. If Featherstone and Sloat weren’t such accomplished actors (particularly Featherstone whose performance is pitch-perfect), Peli never could have pulled off such an audacious endeavor. And he DOES pull it off.

I found myself holding my breath throughout the film, legitimately nervous as to what would happen next. Just glancing at these stills is making me anxious and I didn’t want to get out of bed to use the restroom last night because that would require walking through a dark house. And y’all, this isn’t my first rodeo. I watch scary movies all the time! This film was made for ELEVEN THOUSAND DOLLARS and it scared the crap out of me. Peli is a genius and I will eagerly watch any film of his in the future. He’s a magician of the minimalist, using virtually no special effects and essentially no money to create an atmosphere of dread that lives in your stomach for hours after the end credits DO NOT ROLL. Yeah, no credits, which is freaky, and nothing on the DVD, either. I am telling you! Peli is a GENIUS.

So if by some unlikely chance you haven’t seen Paranormal Activity, watch it. Turn off your lights and don’t pause for breaks, either. You can go 86 minutes without going to the bathroom. Let Peli take you someplace new and thrilling and awful in the awesomest way ever. You’ll be glad you did.

6 Responses to “Quickie Review: Paranormal Activity”

  1. Amber Ambrose Says:

    I seriously cried because I was so scared at one point. Also, had to turn it off and dance around the living room at least 2 times to be able to make it through. I’m pretty sure my husband, Lennie, peed his pants too. He won’t admit it though.

  2. xymarla Says:

    I know, Amber. Matt said at one point: “I am so glad we didn’t watch this in the theater. I wouldn’t have been able to handle it.” And he can handle anything!


  4. This movie has so much suspense that you’re basically paralyzed. It just slowly creeps to this point where you don’t think you can take it any more and then…maybe something happens, maybe not. None of the thrills are cheap and this movie is so real, it’s like you’re there. It basically takes the freakiest parts of Blair Witch–like the tent rattling–and has about 10 more moments like that.

    Whew. I’ve broken out into a cold sweat just writing this.

    And good for them. They have acheived the ultimate filmaker’s dream: make a movie for almost no money and then make a lot of money off of it.



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