In 2006, Katie (Katie Featherstone) and Micah (Micah Sloat), share a house together in a small suburb located in North America. Both Katie and Micah believe the house to be haunted, and to prove this Micah sets up a HD camera on a tripod at the foot of their bed, much to Katie's displeasure. As the hauntings become more frequent, Katie reveals how she had encounters with a similar demonic force throughout her childhood, leading the young couple to believe a demonic being is following Katie. Whilst Micah captures more evidence, Katie's behaviour begins to change night by night, and this doubled by the camera's constant intrusion in their lives puts a strain on their relationship.
Paranormal Activity, the first film by rookie director Oren Peli, has been shot entirely on a hand held camera and was heavily promoted on online sites such as Facebook, before being picked up by Paramount Pictures in 2008. Since then, Paranormal Activity has gone on to gross over $140 million at the box office, a major success compared to its miniscule $15,000 budget, and has been praised as "one of the scariest movies of all time". However, it should suffice to say that Paranormal Activity is the most over blown movie of the year, and stands out as more of a giggle worthy mess then a legitimate horror movie, let alone one of the greatest.
Straight away you can tell that Paranormal Activity is yet another victim of the broken sub genre that is hand held camera work, exploiting the already contrived ideas that worked so well in other movies such as Cloverfield and The Blair Witch Project. The main issue with Peli's filming technique is his obsession with placing the camera in even the most minor of scenes, such as an early morning coffee fix or a casual swim outside. The constant intergration of the camera in these pointless moments taking place in broad daylight is meant to build on the idea that this is all real and that these were real people, however detracts from the films horror atmosphere that, for the most part, plays its part fairly consistently.
Paranormal Activity suffer's from a major flaw found in many horror movies today, namely a lack of attention to the main cast, a major issue considering how the film only really has two actors. Micah, the most annoying of the two leads, is your typical brute. He constantly undermines not only Katie's advice, but also a professional psychic sent to help their situation. Peli's main flaw with his characters is the lack of development he gives to them, making it very hard for the audience to show any simpathy towards the two, and not even Featherstone's impressive performance on screen can salvage her boring character.
What will annoy audiences and horror fans alike is just how dull the majority of the film is. Peli relies to much on the cliched scare tactics used in horror films since the birth of the genre. Doors slam, sheets move, and the whole time the audience's reaction will vary between boredom to outright laughter. It begs the question as to whether or not Peli actually watched his film after production wrapped due to its lack of anything truly frightening, until the finale of the film. Simply put, the ending is scary, but its hard to take seriously as it is little more then a horror cliché from yester-year.
Pararnormal Activity tries and fails to breathe some life into the dying horror genre, and instead showcases the very meaning of 'wasted potential'. Cliched and unimaginative, there's just not enough here to keep audiences interested and scare them without the use of cliches. The only really scary thing to be taken away from Paranormal Activity is that this flawed and underdeveloped sub genre will soon take over as the main form of film making in horror films. With a sequal on the way, audiences can do little but hope that the only way from here is up. Don't believe the hype, Paranormal Activity is a real dissapointment.