Friday, October 16, 2009

Review: "Paranormal Activity"

I hate to say this about any movie, especially so about one I really wanted to like, but I honestly don't remember the last time I was so disappointed by a movie as I was by Paranormal Activity.

Honestly, I tried not to buy into the hype that has been steadily building on the net, and certainly didn't expect it to be The Scariest Movie Ever Made. But I did hope it would be at least a little scary. Sadly, it's not.

Katie (Katie Featherston) and Micah (Micah Sloat) are young co-habitants ("...engaged to be engaged") who have been experiencing some unusual phenomena in their home; weird noises, faucets turning on by themselves, etc. Micah buys a camera to try and catch whatever is happening while they sleep (it is through that mostly hand-held camera that we see what's happening). Katie calls in a psychic, who advises her to consult a demonologist. Turns out, Katie was "haunted" as a child (apparently by the same entity) which ended with her house burning down. Micah decides he will take matters into his own hands and get rid of it himself, taunting the entity and inviting it to communicate (and by the way, the marker on a Ouija board is called a planchette, not a 'cursor'), things the psychic expressly warned them not to do. As Micah becomes more and more of a macho asshat, the creepy goings-on get more intense.

Paranormal Activity was a great idea, and while it isn't badly executed from a technical point of view, it's pacing is deadly. The first hour meanders about as Micah continuously tries to convince Katie to have sex on camera while ignoring her increasing discomfort. A door moves. Something screeches and thumps. Katie sleepwalks. Sort of creepy, but too little for too long. By the time the movie actually starts to look like it's going to get scary, it's over (with one of the single most ridiculous and superfluous final shots, ever).

First time writer/director Oren Peli gets pretty good performances from his small cast of unknowns. And he knows how to frame a shot and give us things to try and see around corners, but he lets the movie take far too long to get where it's going and then doesn't quite go far enough before so abruptly going too far. The packed house (mostly teenagers and what I can only assume were country rubes who were seeing a movie for the first time, ever) screamed and carried on while my three companions and I were bored by both the pacing and the "been-there-done-that" ghost movie bag o' tricks. The original ending was re-shot for the current version, which makes me think it might have been more interesting, subtle and creepy than the cheap Hollywood cheese it became.

I wish someone would give me $111,000 dollars to make a movie. I'd make a movie that would make you crap your pants, run home crying to Mommy and keep you awake for three weeks. Do yourself a favor, take the money you would have spent on a ticket for Paranormal Activity and put towards your own copy of Drag Me to Hell on Blu-Ray. You'll be much happier with your investment.

Paranormal Activity is rated 'R' for Language. * (One Star)

More terrors, anon.


Mrs. Pine said...

sounds like i may just have to wait 5 or 6 years to rent it, like i did with blair witch project. was excited until i read this...oh well, thx for the heads up. and DMTH was definitely a keeper, agreed on that pt!

Anonymous said...

Good review and not just because you agreed with me. :)