paranormal activity | oren peli | katie featherston | micah sloat | mark fredrichs | found footage | found-footage | ghost | demon | haunted | haunted house | mystery | thriller | united states | amber armstrong | ashley palmer
Film: Paranormal Activity
Director: Oren Peli
Writer: Oren Peli
Starring: Katie Featherston, Micah Sloat and Mark Fredrichs
This film was one that I remember seeing when I was in college. It actually freaked me out and I remember telling my sister and dad, who are both big horror fans, this was one of the scariest films I had seen. Now I did probably get sucked into the hype a bit, but I will admit, this film still does work for me. I have seen this a handful of times, including again at the Gateway Film Center for the Horror 101 series as well as with Jaime for the Summer Challenge series over on the Podcast Under the Stairs for the 2000s. Before I give away too much though, the synopsis is after moving into a suburban home; a couple becomes increasingly disturbed by a nightly demonic presence.
We don’t waste too much time getting into this one actually. It states this is police footage that was released. We start off with Micah (Micah Sloat), getting a new camera. The reason is that he and his girlfriend, Katie (Katie Featherston), have been experiencing noises at night. He is trying to get proof of it. He greets her in the driveway with the camera and she isn’t thrilled about it. She is also a bit put off by the idea of what he wants to do.
They bring in a psychic, Mark Fredrichs, which I think is a creative way to give the back-story. Katie first experienced an entity with her sister when she was 8 years old. That house burned down and she didn’t notice it again until she got older. She feels it is now back. The psychic tells them the presence he feels is not a ghost, but a demon. Micah isn’t buying what he is saying and he thinks he can handle it himself.
His plan is to get an Ouija board to communicate with it and he sets up the camera at night to see if he can capture the haunting. They get more than they bargained for as time goes on, the haunting gets worse. It doesn’t help that Micah challenges the entity either. It wears the couple down as things get progressive worse.
Now for this recap, I wanted to go a bit vague, because to be honest, there isn’t a lot that actually happens. This is actually is the biggest gripe that I hear from people. I personally think there are subtle things that happen with a realism of the events. I also don’t want to spoil as there are some things that just need to be experienced if you haven’t.
I believe this is now my fifth time seeing this film, with two of those times in the theater. I’m not going to lie; this film still gets my anxiety going. I personally don’t believe in ghosts or demons, but from what I do know, you can’t just catch them on a normal camera. I think that realism really brings something to this movie. The noises and the other things that happen can be subtle, but efficient. The realism is also helped by the fact that this is found-footage. It just adds something to what we’re getting here.
There is the issue with found-footage films that you need someone to be carrying a camera. I like the idea that Micah isn’t really taking this serious and if he is, he thinks that he can take care of it. His arrogance causes him to be a bit of a jerk and constantly carrying the camera around. I believe from his personality that he would do exactly as we are seeing. The scariest things happen at night, where they have it on a wide lens and stationary. It is in a place where it can catch from a perfect angle. This is also kind of something I want to do, but also scared to see what I do in my sleep. Also I can argue, the real villain in this movie is him for him challenging something he doesn’t really know anything about.
From here I want to move to the pacing of the film, which I think is perfect. It doesn’t waste any time establishing the characters, the plot and the back-story of the film. It is given to us, but in a unique way of telling the psychic the background information. The haunting in the film progresses in a way that is believable and definitely gets worse. The tension builds to the fateful night that ends everything. I like the ending and with the hindsight that I have, knowing this becomes a series, I think it sets it up perfectly to build as we go.
The acting can be hit or miss with found-footage films. We really just follow the two stars. I think Featherston is great in showing the fear and terror of the events. She has been living with this her whole life and I think she presents that to us well. I felt bad for her and can see how this is affecting her. She seems real in the emotions she is presenting. She is also cute in the girl next door type of way, which I think adds something to her character as well. Sloat I actually really hated after these last couple of viewings, but he is needed in the film. He is a jerk, because he isn’t taking this seriously. On top of that though, he is actually making everything worse as well. I do think he is believable though as well. The rest of the cast rounded out of the film for what was needed as well.
Something I find interesting to talk about is the effects of the film. There isn’t really anything. We get to see something walking through powder later in the film, but we never actually see the entity. There’s a trick with shadows well, which these things are what freak me out about the film. There is something at the end that I found to be fitting for what they were going for. It is also found-footage, so this does feel like we are really watching the videos that they are making as well. I think that really adds an element of realism.
The final thing to briefly touch on would be the soundtrack of the film. There is no music in the film aside from a song that Micah plays in the movie. I’m glad it is that way, because if there was music overlaid, I think it takes away from it feeling real. The sounds of banging and other things help in this category as well. The use of ambient sound is very effective for me.
Now with that said, I know this film and the series in general is pretty decisive. There are many that think nothing really happen, but I definitely beg to differ. I think it is an effective found-footage, ghost film. The realism that comes from this add something to me and it builds to make me feel quite anxious. The acting is good enough to add to the realism along with the soundtrack being all ambient. The film is more subtle, but also a realistic look at a haunting for what we know. Since I don’t believe they are real, we will never know if this is the case though. Overall I find this to be a really good film and even after multiple viewings, I think it is still stands up and still makes me anxious much like my first viewing.
My Rating: 8.5 out of 10