Paranormal Activity is an independent horror film written and directed by Oren Peli. The first glimpse of the movie was at the Screamfest Film Festival in October 2007. The movie was also shown in 2008 at the Slamdance Film Festival in Utah. It wasn’t until this year that the movie had a release in several U.S cities on October 9th 2009, the movie went on to have a nationwide release on October 16th.
The production electrified the United States and became an overnight success. One highly enthusiastic critic called the movie the scariest of all time, with one tagline for the movie instructing viewers not to see it alone. Paranormal Activity is said to be the most successful independent film of all time. The movie, which had a budget of $15,000, has to date made a worldwide profit of over $100 million dollars.
The movie is set entirely in a house located in suburban San Diego, California and follows a young couple, Katie and Micah. The story begins as the couple who are engaged to be engaged have begun experiencing unusual activity in their home. Micah buys a top of the range camcorder in an attempt to capture evidence of the unexplained happenings. This method of film making has been seen a lot in recent years, for example Cloverfield (2008) and The Blair Witch Project (1999) have both utilised a handheld camera style, and the same method is used in Paranormal Activity.
As the story progresses we see footage taken during the day, as the couple discuss the possible meanings of the activity. And we also see footage taken at night as the couple sleep, which is when most of the unusual events take place. For me the events themselves did not hugely frighten, the scary part for me was the actual build up to the events. From seeing the trailer you know that some pretty weird stuff is going to happen and the tension and suspense generated from this big build up is the most eerie part. The suspense created reminded me of some sort of Alfred Hitchcock film. Though at times when you are sitting waiting for something to happen it can get slightly tiresome. If it wasn’t for some comical dialogue on the part of the two characters, these big build ups could be seen as slightly boring.
As the movie continues the paranormal events which take place increase in intensity. I don’t want to give away any details of what occurs, but the events go from being something that could possibly be explained by a natural occurrence, to events of utter supernatural nature. The movie follows a pattern in which we have a huge build up, a paranormal event occurs then we have the calm after the story when things momentarily return to normal. This method keeps you on your toes and waiting eagerly to turn the next corner and face the next scare.
The eerie atmosphere which this movie presents is similar to another movie released this year, The Fourth Kind. If conventions from both of these movies were combined you could get what could be considered the scariest movie of all time. In my opinion The Fourth Kind offers more of a scare and I can honestly say I had trouble sleeping after watching it. Paranormal Activity offers more in the way of suspense and tension, which is a convention The Fourth Kind, appears to be lacking.
At first Paranormal Activity does present itself as a reality and wants to put the audience in a position to treat the characters are real. However at the end a disclaimer appears on the screen which assures viewers that the events portrayed in the movie are entirely fictitious. It makes me wonder if those responsible for The Fourth Kind will put a similar disclaimer on their film when released in stores.
I have great respect for those responsible for Paranormal Activity. To make a worldwide movie success on such a small budget when you consider that of Hollywood blockbusters is truly incredible. I just hope they don’t spoil it by making some sort of crappy sequel, but I suppose once something starts to make money a sequel is pretty much imminent. The question of if Paranormal Activity is the scariest movie of all time is a one easily answered. I certainly do not believe Paranormal Activity is the scariest but when I see the scariest of all time I’ll be sure to let you all know.
To delve any further into the story of Paranormal Activity would most probably ruin your viewing experience. If you want to know if it truly does live up to all the hype my advice to you is get to your nearest cinema, and see for yourself. Alternatively you could wait for the DVD & Blue-Ray release on December 29th.