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Friday, October 23, 2009

When The Fear In Your Mind Surrounds The Dread In Your Body

MOVIE REVIEW 
Paranormal Activity


Fear Factor: Katie Featherston and Micah Sloat in Oren Peli's "Paranormal Activity".                                    Paramount Pictures

By Omar P.L. Moore / PopcornReel.com   Share
Friday, October 23, 2009

In "Paranormal Activity", written, edited and directed by Oren Peli, a couple moves in to a house in San Diego circa 2006.  They're quite a couple -- Micah (Micah Sloat) is a pig-headed juvenile type and day market trader, and Katie (Katie Featherston) is a student who is shrill and potty-mouthed.  When things go bump in the night for no apparent reason, Micah introduces his video camera -- which he plays with and explores as much as he does his range of stupidity -- and records he and his fellow cantankerous soulmate as they sleep.

Turns out that the sounds we hear are not pins dropping in the still of the night but something more creepy and sinister.  We might see traces of nothingness.  For at least 21 nights in mid-September and October the camera records any and all unusual activity in the bedroom.  In the black-and-white footage that plays we try to look for something -- a needle in a haystack in the dark, perhaps.  There's something going on.  We're just not sure what.

"Paranormal Activity", which at a scant $10,000 offers very subtle special effects, is a dizzying experience.  Its hyperkinetic hand-held digital video camera footage (operated by Mr. Sloat) can literally make you sick, so be warned.  One person vomited at the screening I attended earlier this month.  Much of Mr. Peli's film is threadbare and unremarkable yet clever at generating an aura of fear in its audience based upon what horror fans are accustomed to on the big screen.  "Paranormal Activity" is a throwback to films like "Rosemary's Baby", in which the audience's imagination and perception goes into overdrive, achieving a maddening desire to fill in the blanks of a cooky, spooky jigsaw puzzle.

Mr. Peli's documentary-like feature feels real, with no typical acting from either Miss Featherston or Mr. Sloat.  The film also capitalizes on many of the horror genre's signature clichés and defies them in the same chilly breath.  "Paranormal Activity" is more supenatural thriller than true horror flick, though no less suspenseful.  You wonder, however, what all the fuss is about, until you experience several genuinely scary moments.  Whatever its flaws, glaring in the absence of a packed to the rafters theater audience, you can't deny the effectiveness of "Paranormal Activity", a quietly unsettling work that delivers a solid punch to the solar plexus.

Authentic scares never felt so good.                                                                                        

With: Mark Friedrichs, Amber Armstrong and Ashley Palmer.

"Paranormal Activity" is rated R by the Motion Picture Association of America for language.  How about rated S for scary?  The film's duration is one hour and 29 minutes.

Read Omar's story on "Paranormal Activity" in the Examiner online newspaper

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