"I feel it. I feel it breathing on me."
Some films are scary because they show what monsters look like. Other films frighten an audience by making them think about the unpleasant. Then there are some films, like Oren Peli’s Paranormal Activity, that scare viewers without showing anything outright. This is one of the most interesting and original films on the entire 1077 Films to See Before You Die. Peli is able to get inside your head and really mess with your psyche. This is why Paranormal Activity makes the list. It is also why I love it so much.
The film follows a young couple who have just recently moved in together. The young woman in this couple, Katie, fears that she has been haunted by a demon for her entire life and that it is now trying to really make itself known. Her boyfriend, Micah, is a non-believer who decides that he wants to video record their home at night to prove that they are not being haunted.
This creates the first interesting aspect of Paranormal Activity. The film is shot from the vantage point of Micah’s video camera without any real cuts or edits. This helped Peli during advertising because he was able to convince people that it was legitimate “found footage” of a couple being haunted. No scene in the film is edited, though some are fast-forwarded, rather each scene serves as an individual free-flowing horror verite. It also manufactures an element of undoubted suspense over what will happen next to the couple. The home video shooting style very rarely works, but Peli managed to master it in his debut film.
Speaking of Oren Peli, one fun fact about Paranormal Activity is that the whole film is actually shot inside his real home. He spent months preparing his house for shooting, and it works. His home is a perfect frame for all of the spooky things that happen as Micah and Katie sleep. The most utilized room in the picture, the bedroom, is a masterfully organized setting for the action. The homey appearance of the film just makes it that much more terrifying.
Okay, now I need to explain why I believe Paranormal Activity is so horrifying. Where is the one place in the entire world where you are safe? The correct answer is your bed. No matter what, as long as you make it to your comfortable bed you are safe from life’s scary monsters. It has been this way since childhood. Paranormal Activity takes that security away from you. It shows how things can happen as you are asleep. It directly confronts the human vulnerability that comes with deep sleep. Things happen around Katie and Micah, but they never know.
Also, the paranormal entity in the film has no respect for a bed’s safety powers. It attacks Katie as she sleeps. This is a concept that kept me awake at night for several following weeks. I do not want to know what happens as I am resting. Paranormal Activity has no right to show it to me. This is what horror is all about.
The film has an interesting shooting style and a very scary plot. The only real flaw in the whole production is the ending. I am obviously not going to spoil anything for you, but I feel like the ending of Paranormal Activity is cheap. I found it to be extremely predictable. But then again, most horror films are predictable.
That being said, I believe that Paranormal Activity is the most important horror film of the last ten years. It is not childish, hokey or simple like most scary Hollywood garbage. Instead it is just simply scary. And that is all you need from a horror flick.
Paranormal Activity: B-
My Next Film……Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! (Meyer. 1965)