I love what my mother calls 'scary movies.' Of course, for her a 'scary movie' is anything that is not a romantic comedy, a comedy, or a drama. Here's a funny story: early one morning I was awakened by some scratching noises in my ceiling. I walked out to the kitchen to tell my mother about it. She looked at me like I was crazy, and I told her to come back to my room with me where she also heard the scratching noises. Later that night, after my dad had set some traps in the attic to catch the scratching culprit, my mother confessed she thought I'd lost it that morning and that the scratching noises I'd heard were something I'd dreamt thanks to all the 'scary movies' that I watch. Of all the scary movies I've watched, I've never worried about them possibly giving me nightmares. Then I watched Paranormal Activity, and I thought, if anything's going to give me a nightmare, it'll be this movie.
Paranormal Activity--a tiny independent film that only cost $15,000 to make--is being hailed as the mother of all scary movies or at least the mother of all those released in 2009. I have to admit that when I watched it, I wasn't sure what to expect. I'd seen clips here and there on TV and those I'd seen didn't blow me away. But it is a scary movie after all and it had gotten good reviews and pulled in millions at the box office, so I thought I'd watch it just to see what all the fuss was about and if I agreed with all the fuss.
Presented as found home movie footage, similar to Cloverfield, Quarantine (movies I've seen) and The Blair Witch Project (a movie I haven't seen), the actors' use their own names in the film. Micah and Katie have moved in together after several years of dating when strange things start happening in the night. Inspired and determined to document these occurrences, Micah buys a camcorder to record the strange thuds, bumps, and other goings on that happen while the couple sleeps in the very early morning hours.
As a direct result of Micah purchasing the camcorder and recording at night, these strange events escalate, and the couple consults a professor whose expertise is ghosts and related hauntings. During the course of an interview in their house with the professor, Katie reveals that a strange and shadowy figure has been stalking her since she was about eight years old, and it has made its presence known intermittently over the years. The professor tells Katie that he is certain that she is being stalked by a demon or other malevolent being and this falls outside his field of expertise. The professor cannot help this young couple, but he knows someone who can, and he gives Katie another professor's name.
Meanwhile, Micah, who has captured the entire episode on camera, is skeptical and is even more determined to capture everything on camera. He is also determined to solve the problem of the demon haunting them on his own because Katie is his girlfriend and he can protect her himself! Soon Micah begins yelling and verbally provoking the demon stalking them in their house. This is a very bad idea. The malevolent being responds by ratcheting up its activities and revealing the extent of its powers and influence over Katie until late one night when the couple are at their breaking point and the shocking conclusion is captured by Micah's camera.
My impression prior to viewing the movie was that it was basically an hour and a half of watching the couple sleep while blankets ripple eerily and doors open and close seemingly of their own will. However, these night time scenes are intercut with day time scenes of the couple working or studying around the house and discussing their demon problem. The home video style adds to the creepy eeriness of the atmosphere because it adds realism--as if this really is some home video discovered after these events have actually happened. We never see the thing haunting the protagonists, and we never know why it has targeted Katie, but in a way, this makes the events portrayed more horrifying because they are seemingly random. This is a very scary, eerie, creepy movie. And I can't help but think that Sam and Dean Winchester might have been able to solve this couple's demon problem before things got too far out of hand. I guess they were too busy trying to avert the apocalypse.
I highly recommend Paranormal Activity for horror genre fans. It is coming soon to a library near you.
--Reviewed by Ms. Angie