15 October 2009

At the movies: Paranormal Activity.

Since she was eight years old, Katie has been haunted by an unseeable force. Now, in a bizarre mix of genuine concern and antiquated codes of macho foolishness, her day trader boyfriend Micah has decided to setup a mildly elaborate recording system to try and confirm visual and audible evidence of this mystery that has plagued his beloved for years. But what they capture is something not easily explainable, and what they find is something beyond logic and reason.

Here’s another case of a no-budget independent shocker that relies on offscreen sound and the power of suggestion to yield bigtime shock and even bigger dollar signs. It’s The Blair Witch Project all over again, as an insistent and well-aimed marketing campaign has turned a tiny tape of terror into a multimillion dollar event.

It’s all the industry and media can talk about, and it hasn’t even opened wide across the country yet. Hollywood dreams about this kind of success, and audiences, as always, respond to a good scare.

This film doesn't have Blair Witch's remarkable ability to imbue the widest of open spaces with the most pervasive kind of dread, nor does it have any real iconography or particular style. The former film required a vivid imagination and a sense of the overwhelming possibilities of the dark, whereas Paranormal Activity seems just a little too conscious of what an audience these days requires.

But regardless of its flaws; and there are quite a few, all coming in to play whenever the filmmakers decide to inject some narrative (e.g. psychic, Ouija board, theory and expository history of demonology), Paranormal Activity is a must-see for anyone who wants to be terrified.

All you need to know is that some truly scary stuff happens herein; things that are scary because they work on the imagination, and scary because when they do get physical and crazy, it feels unreal- not in the way that CG has desensitized us to almost all fantastic imagery, but unreal in the way that triggers the hair on the back of your neck, that triggers the heart rate, and the cold sweats, and the parts of the brain where nightmares live.

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