Oren Peli, USA, 2009, 86 min.
It’s not a new idea, but the story told is particularly suited for the medium. A young couple, conveniently well-to-do so they don’t have to leave the house to work, are experiencing some non-threatening paranormal phenomena. It’s filmed entirely from the POV of the characters video camera.
The female, Katie, has been experiencing these things – and some other more sinister occurrences – at various points in her life. The male, Micah, is new to this and doesn’t really believe. He buys a new camera and intends to document things, filming the bed while they sleep to see what happens. He really just enjoys having a new toy.
Their dichotomy is further stretched when Katie invites a psychic over to investigate. What’s great about these scenes is that it is played very realistically. The psychic is a well-spoken doctor. There isn’t a séance and there isn’t an exorcism. It’s very low-key, which works to build the believability and suspense.
In fact, that sums up the whole film. Oren Peli is remarkably restrained in his approach, and it works wonders building the tension. The scares are tangible and the characters feel real. The story, mood, and mystery of the situation build up so much that their can really be no good ending, and what they have in place hurts the film. We all knew the film was building to something, and what actually happens can be a letdown for some.
The execution of the film until the climax is perfect for the style, and the subject matter highlights the strengths of the medium. Besides the misstep at the end, Paranormal Activity is a good film with some real scares. Did I have trouble sleeping afterwards? No, but I would understand if people did.