Review by Jack Foley
OREN Peli’s low-budget horror phenomenon Paranormal Activity is one of the most spine-chilling experiences you’re likely to have in a long time.
Essentially a claustrophobic two-hander, it’s a creepily effective tribute to the power of the imagination that flies gleefully in the face of the current trend for gore.
Peli has taken one of our most primal fears – what happens around us while we’re asleep at night – and turned it into a chilling brain scrambler that’ll have you perched on the edge of your seat from beginning to end.
True, the hype surrounding the film is now disproportionate to its effectiveness but no matter what you may ultimately think about its capacity to scare, it does demand an audience experience so that you can scream, gasp and jump out of your seat in tandem with everyone around you.
The story focuses on San Diego suburban couple Katie (Katie Featherson) and Micah (Micah Sloat) after they buy a camcorder in an attempt to find out what’s causing the strange noises and occurrences in their house at night.
But as their investigation and subsequent discoveries intensify, so too does their plight and it’s not long before they come to realise the full extent of the supernatural conundrum they’re faced with.
Admittedly, elements of Peli’s story don’t stand up to a lot of scrutiny and the film has been tinkered with to ensure maximum chill effectiveness (courtesy of a tacked on Steven Spielberg ending).
But like The Blair Witch Project, to which it is repeatedly and accurately compared, it is a lasting testament to the fact that the simplest things are often the scariest.
In a climate when most mainstream horror exists to splat gore, Peli strips things down to basics and invites viewers’ imagination to run into overdrive. And it will.
The suspense is expertly built so that the tension is almost unbearable by the time the lights go off at night, while several of the shocks will genuinely make you jump, and there are sequences that are guaranteed to linger (although we won’t reveal them here).
The end, too, will leave a lasting impression while sending a shiver down the spine.
Crucially, however, Peli does inject plenty of uneasy humour to offset the terror, allowing viewers to laugh along at his characters’ gung-ho expense while applying their own decision-making values to the dilemma at hand.
The result is a fully immersive horror experience that truly does remain with you once the lights go out at night.
Running time: 86mins
UK DVD & Blu-ray Release: March 22, 2010
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