Paranormal Activity Directed by: Oren Peli Cast: Katie Featherston, Micah Sloat, Mark Fredrichs Running Time: 1 hr 25 mins Rating: R
Plot: Katie (Featherston) and Micah (Sloat) attempt to document the inhuman haunting that has plagued Katie since she was 13. And for all you fools who don’t imbibe in your weekly Ghost Hunters fix, “inhuman” is the friendlier term for “demonic.”
Who’s It For? Fans of horror, obviously, but anyone who specifically lusts for a good, old-fashioned ghost story—this one’s for you.
Expectations: I don’t have cable right now, so I had no idea. When Bayer called me and asked me to go, I asked “What’s Paranormal Activity?” Bayer promptly responded, a la the valley girl he’s not, “SHUT…UP!”
Actors: Katie Featherston as Katie: Featherston is essentially playing herself (I think), so I can’t really judge her ability to embody a completely foreign character. That being said, she’s very natural, which is the crux of this type of movie. If the person doesn’t seem like a real, everyday person Paranormal Activity doesn’t pull it off. Featherston does terror very well; she isn’t too melodramatic, or screechy (a miscalculation with most female-in-peril characters), and for the most part, she reacts like we all would…except for maybe continuing to sleep so soundly in that bed…no one would do that. Score: 8
Micah Sloat as Micah: Ditto for Sloat. In order for the story to work, Micah has to have the most of the hubris (“We don’t need any help! I’ll handle it!”), but it’s never overly annoying. His refusal to take any professional help seriously is believable for the most part…near the end, though, it starts to feel more implausible. Really? You just watched your girlfriend in a possessed trance and you still don’t want to call the Demonologist? Sloat does a good job making us think he’s just a stubborn guy, so it doesn’t feel so much like forced, unrealistic conflict. Score: 8
Mark Fredrichs as The Psychic: The psychic has a very small role, but it’s pivotal to the story. He is there to inform the audience and then, later, to act as a litmus test for how angry the unseen demon is becoming. Fredrichs is believable and, like the rest of the cast, natural and realistic. Like I said before, you have to feel like you’re watching a home video for the movie to work, and Fredrichs doesn’t drop the ball. Score: 8
Talking: Realistic. It sounds like a lot of it is adlibbed and not in a bad way. It’s difficult to capture that level of realism without freeing up the actors to just say what they would say in that situation. Score: 8
Sights: The scariest ghost story doesn’t ever show you the ghost—you just have to know the evil little sh*t is there, and that’s enough. Paranormal Activity takes a perfect, textbook approach to telling the perfect ghost story. The pacing is flawless and a lot of the imagery is either an original idea, or a fresh slant on ol’ faithful: both are fine by me. Score: 9
Sounds: The sounds were my favorite part of the movie. You never actually “see” the entity, so the bulk of its presence is knocking, thumping, phantom footsteps, and otherworldly snarling. There was no music, which is important—music reminds us that we’re watching a movie and it gives us the luxury of separation. The closer you get to a ghost story, the harder it is to survive, because you are right there in it. Score: 10
Best Scene: It involves powder. Note the actual shape of the “footsteps” for yourself.
Ending: There are rules to making an exceptional ghost story and Paranormal Activity breaks one major rule at the very end: don’t depend on regurgitated special effects. CGI isn’t scary anymore—it’s way too overused. You shouldn’t spend the whole movie, wide-eyed and delighted (maybe that’s just me), and then leave with an exasperated groan. For shame—so close.
Questions: Why wouldn’t you go to the media with footage like that? Oh, and here’s a suggestion for anyone else in Micah’s position: dump that girl. Yes you love her, and yes she’s great, but we’re talking some serious baggage. Demon baggage? Too much. Way worse than mere neediness or mistrust.
Rewatchability: Absolutely, in a heartbeat, yes.
It’s way too obvious, but we still need to say it out loud: The Blair Witch Project did it first. The tragic mocumentary approach, requiring the actors to be themselves, the low-quality video, the originality, the inherent spookiness—all been done before. But that doesn’t make Paranormal Activity a pure copy by any means. This movie stands alone as a solid and well-researched ghost story. It has all the elements you’ll find if you watch copious amounts of A Haunting on Discovery Channel and Ghost Hunters on SciFi: doors opening and closing, the television turning itself on, bite marks, ouija boards, phantom footsteps, at least one dunce yelling “Show yourself!”, mysterious fires, and severed growling. It’s all there in one big scrumptious ghost story lasagna and when you cut yourself a piece, you’ll marvel at its juicy, sinister gooey insides of demon goodness. Forgive it its climatic misjudgment and dig right in while it’s hot.
Final Score: 8/10