To put myself on an objective plane before writing this review, I should admit that I consider 2007 Spanish zombie thriller [Rec] to be THE scariest movie I have ever seen. Now, contrary to whatever my co-watcher says, (who reportedly still has nightmares about a teenage Linda Blair scaring the whole world in ‘The Exorcist’) [Rec] scored over all other films thanks to its pseudo-original footage format, where a camera crew gets stuck in a zombie-infested Barcelona apartment building.
Oran Peli’s Paranormal activity, however, has a different premise; but here again, the camera is operated by a protagonist: an over-enthusiastic man (Micah Sloat) who is interested to find out the truth after a host of spooky occurences in his house, that are somehow connected with his girlfriend’s (Katie Featherston) past.
Screened for the first time in late-2007 during the Screamfest Horror Film Festival, it took two years for the film to find a proper distributor. After a slew of incidents that included proposals to re-shoot and even a hassled Steven Spielberg claiming that the DVD of the movie was ‘haunted’ (but he ended up liking the movie too), DreamWorks and Paramount finally released the film, 11 years after the first horror pseudo-documentary film of its kind, ‘The Blair Witch Project’ hit screens.
Even though my co-watcher decides to go to sleep each time I begin one of my history lessons, cinema-goers have been tastefully acquainted with this ‘style’ of film-making in 1998, thanks to ‘The Blair Witch Project’; the success of which, however, did not generate a string of below-average films of the type (Thank heavens!). [Rec] came in 2007, its not-so-good Hollywood remake ‘Quarantine’ came a year later and in 2008 itself, a similarly shot ‘Eco-terror’ film (“What’s that?” my co-watcher asks. “Films like Godzilla”, I reply) ‘Cloverfield’ took home a fair amount of moolah.
So is Paranormal Activity special, or different, or better than its predecessors? To put it fairly, it is a heck of a scary film. The amateur footage looks amateurish enough to make you believe as if you are really watching ‘the real deal’. The slow (albeit, steady) curve of the story has everything from low-key titillating shock-effects like small sound distractions whenever ‘the demon’ is around; to nerve-wracking sequences where doors are closed with heavy bangs and protagonists are dragged away by a scary and invisible force. The acting is effectively natural, Katie is easy on the eye, Micah is effortless; the fact that Katie is called Katie and Micah is called Micah within the film boosts the aunthenticity factor as well.
The real kicker is perhaps the ending which has the potential of a fairly harsh kick in the ‘Courage Guts’ of the more ‘gallant’ viewers (Like ‘me’). But on a totally personal level, the original 2007 ending was much more ‘complete’ than the new one. (“We all know Hollywood. The new ending nearly guarantees a sequel.” my co-watcher explains. And I guess she is right. Paramount has already made public their plans for a sequel)
So Oran Peli does strike gold in his first directorial venture. And maybe its not as good as the ‘sleekly planned’ and ‘budgeted’ [Rec] (Let me see Michael Bay or Peter Jackson pull off a movie like this with 15000 bucks!), but its sure to go down in the history of Horror as a really good ‘Screamfest’. After all, a movie which boasts the presence of a talented screamer (Katie was good!), it’s only fair that the movie gets a fair share of scared screamers from the audience as well.
Rating: 7.5/10 (My co-watcher doesn’t believe in ratings, but What the Hell!)