Think of the scariest movie you’ve ever seen. We all have one, that one that makes us jump, sweat, tremble, and feel leery hours, even days or weeks after you’ve seen it. It’s no secret that the sleeper horror hit “Paranormal Activity”, written and directed by Oren Peli, has viewers everywhere terrified. But is it really one of the scariest movies ever made?
The film centers around a young couple, played by Katie Featherston and Micah Sloat, who have recently moved into a new home in San Diego. But Katie has been haunted by some creature ever since she was eight years old, and it seems that thing has followed them to their current residence. The couple frequently wakes up in the middle of the night to the sound of footsteps and other things going bump in the night. So, logically, Micah purchases and camera and films everything he and Katie do, even sleep, in the hopes of catching some paranormal activity on film (subsequently, the movie is filmed entirely on this camera, giving it a home movie, shaky cam appearance).
At first, their footage merely consists of footsteps and the bedroom door opening and closing on its own. But as the film progresses, each night the ghostly activities become more intense, building tension every time the couple goes to bed. Unfortunately, this tension isn’t enough to make the film as terrifying as it should be. There aren’t any scary images, blood or gore, which is a good thing. It’s nice to see a movie that doesn’t try to be scary by being gross. But for the most part, it tries and fails.
Now, I for one did not get frightened at the sound of a door slamming, but if I was one of the characters, sure I’d be terrified. That’s the hitch: in order to share in the characters’ fear, the viewer has to be able to identify with the characters, to put themselves in their shoes. Featherston and Sloat are actually quite good actors, and really do come off as a typical American couple. But the way they deal with the haunting is completely illogical. Micah seems to think filming every second of every day, as well as verbally provoking the creature, will help in some way, while Katie hires a completely unhelpful psychic who recommends she call a demonologist. Katie says she’ll call him the next day, but she doesn’t for some reason. And of course, they can’t leave because the demon will follow Katie wherever she goes.
So it’s no surprise that this movie has a pretty bare-bones plot. Katie and Micah go to sleep, hear a noise and wake up, run around the house looking for the source of said noise, go back to bed, review the camera footage in the morning, argue, and repeat. While there is some suspense as to what exactly the demon will do on any given night, the routine does get pretty predictable, and some parts, particularly the beginning, are just downright slow.
It’s hard to say whether or not all the hype this film generated ultimately hurt it, but while some people obviously find this film scary on some level, for the most part it’s just a bland disappointment.
2 out of 4 stars. Runtime: 86 minutes. Rated R for language.