Friday, November 13, 2009
Paranormal Activity **
Director: Oren Peli
Cast: Katie Featherston, Micah Sloat
Mark Fredrichs, Ashley Palmer, Amber Armstrong
Terror is found in the seconds between action and reaction, "Paranormal Activity" knows that and thrills us with a story that occurs while we least expect it.
It takes place in the home of Micah (Sloat) and Katie (Featherston) a young couple who have just moved in together and begin to experience strange events in their house.
Trying to find out the causes Micah buys a camera and recording equipment to tape everything that happens while they sleep.
With this move the director justifies the fact that the entire movie is shot documentary style by the protagonists. This aesthetic not only serves to hide the low budget, but also to make us empathize with the characters more because they are not being aided by CGI and special effects.
In this way the entire movie is made up of scenes where Micah and Katie go to sleep while they are haunted by something that moves their bed sheets, leaves footprints in their room and bangs at their walls.
The fact that we can not exactly figure out how they made all the effects makes for a chilling experience and the scenes while we wait them to go to bed and see what happens next make for nail biting suspense.
However the movie suffers from its eagerness to scare us. Supposedly the movie was made up of the footage found in the camera, but this doesn't atone for the fact that every morning Micah wakes up, watches the footage and tries to edit it himself as if he's already consciously preparing the movie we are watching.
The actors do terrific job, because we rarely catch them acting, they behave like "normal" people would in the midst of something like this.
Katie is always selfconscious in front of the camera, especially because she's usually the only one onscreen, while Micah behaves like a boy excited with his gadgets and trying to come up with a solution to prove his manhood to this presence.
But where the movie fails gigantically is in balancing the two central ideologies at the center of its dilemma.
We learn that Katie "inherited" this ghost, she has been having experiences like this since she was a child and for her it has come down to a trust issue with her boyfriend.
She's desperate for him to believe her and stop trying to rationalize everything.
Katie would be the equivalent of oral tradition and legends, "we shouldn't have the camera" she says, convinced that the technological intrusion will somehow disturb the ghost.
She represents the "I heard a friend of a friend..." notion that has haunted our dreams since we were little kids. Stories like hers' which we heard again and again that resulted thrilling only because of the images we formed in our minds.
The movie feeds our preconceptions more by making the ghost only attack at night for example (whatever happened to good old fashioned day scares?) and concentrating in the infamous three a.m. period.
Then there's Micah who in a particularly funny scene hears his girlfriend scream, runs out to help her and comes back realizing he'd forgotten his camera.
We can assume his brain is broadcast on YouTube and his way of thinking is that nobody will believe something they can't see (and dissect).
He tries to document every single thing about the haunting in the process reminding us of the way Hollywood has made horror something terribly graphic lately.
Unfortunately the movie seems to lean with his view of the world and they end up explaining things that would've worked better if the audience left the theater trying to put the pieces together in their heads.
We get an exorcist, online footage that looks like a Linda Blair parody and a particularly unsatisfying finale that tries to be "The Blair Witch Project" but looks as if Micah and Katie wanted it to happen this way.
If it hadn't picked a team "Paranormal Activity" might've worked as a clever dissertation of what horror has become to mean for this generation.