I’m a particularly strict critic when it comes to horror films and I’m not especially attracted to films under such genre; However, something about Paranormal Activity’s theatrical trailer and growth in hype captivated me. Paranormal Activity, a film written and directed by Oren Peli was originally released in 2007, however, didn’t make it to big screens until two years later in 2009. There was much alteration made to the film, including recuts, editing and alternate endings, in attempt to make it on the big screen. I’ve seen the original film that was released in 2007 which has a very different ending from what I’ve researched in the version that’s in theaters today.
The seemingly legit documentary centers around a young couple, Micah and Katie who have been together for three years. Micah purchases a camera in hopes of recording the paranormal phenomena that Katie claims has been haunting her for years. Micah is more fascinated with the technology of the camera than with what’s actually going on with his girlfriend, which shows he is skeptical of her complaints. The “shaky-cam” technique reflects a feeling of intimacy, allowing the viewer to take advantage of the permission authorized to intrude on the couple’s life. This technique inevitably allows the viewer to relax, familiarly relating the film to their own personal connections with home videos. Throughout the film, the paranormal activity and strange occurrences seem to heighten as the hand-held camera documents what is going on.
The film successfully builds up anticipation and suspense. There is an interesting push and pull that I was experiencing while watching the film; I felt relaxed with the home-video feel and fell in love with the characters, but I was on edge being consciously aware that spine-chilling events would eventually corrupt this feeling of comfortability.
This film delivers terror triumphantly. Micah and Katie are an average couple whom most can relate to which makes it easy to emphasize, getting caught up within their situation. The actors who depict the couple are extremely believable and do anything but come off as a cheap imitation like the characters in the 1999 mockumentary film, The Blair Witch Project. I was fearful that Paranormal Activity was just to be a knockoff of TBWP. However, I was anything but disappointed.
The audience is casted as the camera holder, allowing the viewer to easily and unavoidably experience the paranormal activity up close and personal. Paranormal Activity is honest and not exaggerated in a sense that it portrays what I always secretly wanted to encounter: the evidence of a ghostly presence. Most horror films consist of inflated, fabricated nightmares with monsters, and unrealistic but horrifying events. The typical horror film leaves nothing to the imagination while it’s the suspense and the terror of “not knowing” that is evident in Paranormal Activity. It leaves a lot for the viewer to interpret and imagine, which can be as terrifying as we want it to be. Even with being scared with the average horror films like, Freddy Krueger and Friday the 13th, there’s still the realization that these horror films we watch are at a safe distance from reality. However, Paranormal Activity is the opposite in the sense that we’re put into the shoes of the camera holder and entrapped within the film itself. The film ends with the caption, “Dedicated to Micah and Katie” reflecting the feel of an actual documentary which allows the viewer to believe this “mockumentary” is actual recorded evidence of paranormal activity. The typical horror movie will release its grasp on the viewer, letting them escape and head back into the comfort of reality, while Paranormal Activity doesn’t necessarily give the viewer this safe closure.
I can confidently say that Paranormal Activity is the best horror/thriller film I have seen because it escapes the cliche one would associate with this particular genre and brings to the table a whole new meaning of being scared. I guarantee you’ll have difficulty sleeping after watching this thriller of a film.