Paranormal Activity (2007) – Oren Peli

The Blair Witch Project may have made found footage horror movies mainstream, but it was Oren Peli’s Paranormal Activity that brought it into our bedrooms. And this haunted house/possession story is the next stop in the ghost chapter of DK Canada’s Monsters in the Movies.

There’s a lot of divisiveness about this movie, people either love it or are completely indifferent to it. I was intrigued by it, and when I first saw it, immediately crushed on Katie Featherston one of the film’s two leads.

Featherston as Katie is engaged to be engaged to Micah (Micah Sloat) and the pair have settled into a new house that unfortunately comes with an additional resident. Soon, demonic events seem to be taking over the house, and it’s all captured on cameras that Micah has set up around the house.

We are treated to the hurry up and wait moments, and lots of things happening offscreen. But for long periods of time, nothing happens, nothing happens, and then a quick noise, shadow, or jump scare causes a moment of pure panic.

And very soon, you begin to dread the nights as the camera watches the pair sleeping and the things that begin to happen in the late hours of the night.

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Micah is initially intrigued, while not taking it all seriously, while Katie reveals that things like this have been happening all her life, and is afraid of it. And soon, we’ll realize she’s right to be afraid.

Not a lot happens, there are long breaks of nothing, just the pair interacting, and Katie sharing her thoughts, fears and family history, until little things build up to the climax when it all goes sideways, and Katie is no longer Katie.

Featherston does a nice job showing the wearing down of Katie’s defenses. Yes, Micah has a large percentage of screentime, but Katie is in almost every shot, she is the focal point not only of the demonic presence, but of the film itself.

This is a film, that if you can get into it, that if you can buy into the story, care for the characters, it can get to you. It can really freak you out. But if you want gore, and violence, and special effects then this is not the film for you. Yes, it has its jump scares, but its more about what doesn’t happen. It’s the waiting.

The waiting grates on you, wears you down, makes you impatient for something to happen, and yet you dread the nights when you know something HAS to happen.

It was successful enough to launch a franchise which petered out after a few films, even as it built a mythology up around the characters. But before any of that happened, this low budget film (budget of $15,000 and made so much more back!) shot in ten days scared audiences by bringing the terror into the everyday realm of the home, the bedroom, and a couple trying to survive.

I still enjoy this one, and was happy to revisit it again for DK Books’ Monsters in the Movies! Pick up a copy and find something macabre to watch tonight!

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