Written and directed by Oren Peli. Starring Katie Featherstone and Micah Sloat. Rated 14A. Now playing
Much like The Blair Witch Project 10 years ago, Paranormal Activity is the bargain-basement horror flick of the moment. Thanks to steady word of mouth, writer-director Oren Peli’s debut feature has been awarded a major-studio release after years of bouncing around the festival circuit.
Watch the trailer for Paranormal Activity.
Using his own relatively modest house as an impromptu set, Peli made the movie for around $15,000. And what do we get? A surprisingly taut story about a young couple named Katie and Micah (Katie Featherstone and Micah Sloat) who decide to document the supernatural occurrences disrupting their home.
Katie, who’s been intermittently stalked by some sort of malevolent force since the age of eight, is genuinely frightened by the increasingly strange events taking over her life. Micah is a cocky control freak who’s actually a little jazzed when he discovers that his girlfriend is a walking magnet for paranormal activity. In typically male fashion, he decides to film the whole thing with his new video camera.
Peli takes a refreshingly organic approach to ratcheting up the tension. With no elaborate special effects, the resulting thrills are strictly of the mind-game variety. Our increasingly frazzled couple get used to checking out the latest demonic act while padding around the house in sweatpants or boxer shorts. Nobody can accuse the two unknown leads of being great actors, but in the age of reality television, there’s something utterly convincing about the sleep-deprived Katie bickering with Micah while brushing her teeth.
And yet, despite Peli’s ability to conjure up a seductive atmosphere of suspense, the ending seems both rushed and anticlimactic. After the film builds up such an exquisite head of steam, horror purists may be disappointed by the way Paranormal Activity insists on fizzling out so abruptly.