13.1.10

Paranormal Activity (Oren Peli, 2007)

By now most of us have heard of what Paranormal Activity is all about. The much hyped up flick has become one of the cultural cinematic event of the year, thanks to the emphatic viral marketing and explosive word of mouth campaign. The essentially haunted house movie was wholly shot in amateur-ish home video style but minus the extreme shaky cam of Cloverfield (Matt Reeves, 2008). It tells the story of a young suburban couple, Katie (Micah Sloat) and Katie (Katie Featherston) moved in to a new house. Katie claimed she was by spirit since she was young. By using night vision ability video camera mounting on a tripod, the tech savvy Micah wanted to capture any supernatural incident while they are sleeping. Their pursuit begins to go out of hand as the invisible force makes its presence known to both of them.

This movie is similar vein to The Blair Witch Project (D.Myrick, E.S├ínchez; 1999) in every possible way. However Paranormal Activity triumphs due to one important reason: The moment you have know the whole BWP shebang is nothing but a pseudo "found footage" celluloid, the scary-meter drops drastically. No, not this time, despite the fact without recognized actors and on a shoestring budget, the first time director/writer Oren Peli expertly orchestrate the unnerving atmosphere, turning the every day’s mundane stuffs such as door swinging, shadows, the sounds of footsteps, light switching on and off randomly that creep me out. The old school’s rule of fear for the unknown works well here.


Oren shuffled the plot between daytime mostly talkie sequences and night time terrorizing sequences, and the tension slowly built up as each night passed by. For me, it is a damn-if-it-does, damn-if-it-doesn't kind of situation during the nocturnal setpieces. Every time the video clip fast forwarding (clock indicated at bottom right) while one of the characters stood and stared motionless over the other character for an umpteenth period of time sent shiver down my spine. On the other scenario when the video clip was played at normal speed, I was dire to watch the screen as well, afraid of noticing any bit of movement. It just goes to show that you don't need gore and unnecessary violence to freak people out.


Unlike normal circumstances, you do not solely judge this kind of movie from the aspect of polished narrative structures and neat production design because it is meant to be an faux-improvised material. It is how much the impact from the movie provides that count. Paranormal Activity should soar to higher recognition if it was not letdown by the lead characters' repetitive monotonous dialogues during the daytime sequences. Having said that, it actually did serve a purpose being a boring but authentic homemade video.


1 star = Pathetic, SowYau feel ashamed of watching it
2 stars = Off the mark material, approach with caution
3 stars = Generally good, you should watch it if it's your favourite genre
4 stars = excellent, strongly recommended
5 stars = A classic status? only time will tell. But it is definitely in SowYau's Hall of Fame List


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