Internet hype surrounding the fact that people can "Demand It!" on eventful.com so that it comes to their town has turned a little horror flick called 'Paranormal Activity' into the 'Blair Witch Project' of the 2000's. Made about three years ago on a budget of approximately $15,000, it deals with a young couple named Katie and Micah, who are experiencing demonic phenomena at the home they share.
At first, things are only slightly creepy, but explainable, with doors randomly slamming, strange whispers being heard and things banging around. Stuff gets progressively more frightening and aggressive; so much so, in fact, that eventually one of the pair is consistently being tortured by being put into random trances, dragged violently from bed, bitten and beaten. The couple gradually starts mentally breaking down as things quickly get worse and they eventually begin to turn against one another in their confusion, exhaustion and despair.
According to a popular internet-driven rumor, famed director Steven Spielberg was given this movie to watch. After it had finished, the doors to his room locked and he was only able to get out with the help of a locksmith. Apparently he was so rattled by this that he brought his copy back in a garbage bag the following day thinking the footage was cursed. However, is it really that scary? The answer is unfortunately, no. The film has a few good jump scares throughout, but the frights are sadly the kind that that can be easily pulled off and seen from miles away, even by the casual horror viewer.
So, why did I like ‘Paranormal Activity’? One tiny detail: the ending. Before it was released in limited theaters, a new finale was created at the behest of Spielberg himself, one that scared me so much that I had trouble sleeping in my home for days after. A little over a week later, it still gives me chills just thinking about it. It is so fantastic in fact, that a girl at the screening I attended left the theater crying and hyperventilating. The endings style and the reaction of the audience reminded me of three films; a pre-‘Blair Witch’ faux documentary, ‘The Last Broadcast;’ a Japanese horror film called ‘Audition;’ and ‘The Exorcist’. All of the films mentioned use the same technique of lulling the viewers into a bored doze and then scaring the heck out of everyone with its shocking climax.
I really cannot wait to see this ‘Paranormal Activity’ again once it is released in theaters around Reno; but the real treat will be when it is released on DVD. Its use of a mockumentary style and the fact that it takes place in the comforts of the couples home gives it its creep factor and will more than likely make it additionally haunting when viewed alone and vulnerable at home, rather than with a large group of people, in the safe confines of a theater. Three out of Four Stars.