Mind over gore is the biggest plus in Oren Peli's entertaining little horror thriller
Things That Go Bump In The Night:
10-2-09 "Knight Thoughts" web exclusive
By Richard Knight, Jr.
The Halloween movie season has kicked off with a bang. Paranormal Activity, which is rightly being touted as this year’s Blair
Witch Project, is now playing (rather appropriately) midnight screenings around town. Paramount’s packed word of mouth midnight
screening (the line snaked around the block) at the Music Box a few weeks back helped convinced the studio to release the film here
– especially after a host of jacked up audience members no doubt clicked the “Demand It!” button on the movie’s website
afterwards. For thrillseekers, this low budget, gore free flick is worth staying up for.
Made for a paltry $15,000 but delivering the scares and shocks of a movie with a top of the line special effects budget, Paranormal
Activity does what all great “BOO!” movies do – it utilizes the imagination of its audience to provide the electrifying chills after first
lulling the susceptible, “please scare me!” spectators with a commingled false sense of security and dread. Usually these pictures
are most successful when the screenwriter takes his time establishing the mood of unease and then, whamo! That’s what first time
writer-director Oren Peli does with this nifty little thriller.
The premise follows young couple Katie and Micah (newcomers Katie Peterson and Micah Sloat) who have decided to cohabitate after
dating for a long while. They move into a typical suburban home and to celebrate, Micah has purchased a video camera. We quickly
learn that Katie has been followed around on occasion since she was a young girl by a ghost or some other sort of spirit. She’s
nervous but the handsome, playful Micah says “We got all this cool stuff going on” and he convinces Katie to go along with his
scheme to try and capture what they assume is a friendly little “visitor” on video – perhaps they’re find something that will become a
viral hit on YouTube.
Micah is so turned on by his new toy, however, that he quickly is shooting nonstop (and be warned – at points the Point of View
camera work is like all these P.O.V. movies and can easily make one physically nauseous). But a break comes for the viewer as
each night Micah sets up the camera, which is equipped with night vision, in a corner of the couple’s bedroom on a tripod along with
a time stamp to try and capture the haunting on camera. Up to this point we have a sort of cross between the jocular outset of Blair
Witch and Poltergeist. The hip couple with the hip haunted house – what could be more fun?
But then the friendly, neighborhood psychic stops by at Katie’s invitation and he quickly intuits that their visitor is a demon and not a
ghost and not something to trifle with or antagonize. This demon we learn wants Katie and no matter where she goes, is determined
to get her. None of this phases macho Micah who does everything he can to draw out the unwelcome visitor. When he walks in with
a Ouiji board hoping to capture the results on camera, Katie has had enough. After seeing every demon possession movie from The
Exorcist to Witchboard so has the audience. But this dofus just doesn’t know when to stop and sweet Katie, who should smash the
camera, is worn down psychologically as the nightly terrors start to pile up and as Micah becomes more angry and determined to
beat the demon at his own game.
The incidents ratchet up to a startling and creepy conclusion with attendant screams from thrilled audience members (watching the
movie in the packed theatre was half the fun). Writer-director Peli shows plenty of invention within his story and set limitations
though for once it would be nice to have the non-believer character a believer as well and still fall prey to the demonic doings. But
that’s a quibble.
Peli has made a great addition to the Things That Go Bump In the Night movie canon and even left himself open for at least 12
sequels. With the buckets of cash the film is sure to rake in, expect at least half that number each ensuing Halloween season. For
once, I am onboard the sequel train – especially if each one eschews the gore and sticks with the much more disturbing
psychological horror tone this original achieves so well. Against an increasing number of bloody disgusting torture porn pictures, that
is easily Paranormal Activity’s biggest triumph.
"Knight Thoughts" - exclusive web content