Director: Oren Peli Release Date: 25 November Review by Lindsay Robertson Do you fear the things that go bump in the night? After watching Paranormal Activity you almost certainly will. This is the most talked about ‘Found Footage’ film since The Blair Witch Project and perhaps the most convincing cinematic depiction of demonic activity since The Exorcist. Filmed on a miniscule budget in the director’s own house, this home-made horror has been shredding the nerves of audiences throughout America. The entire film takes place at the home of a young couple played by newcomers Katie Featherston and Micah Sloat, and using their own names. Katie is convinced that supernatural events are taking place during the night caused by a presence that has haunted her since childhood. Micah has purchased some high quality recording equipment in order to document these occurrences - the movie consists of the footage from his video camera. They invite a psychic (Mark Fredrichs) to the house who believes the invading entity to be a demon rather than a ghost and warns that this inhuman presence is malicious and potentially dangerous. He advises Katie to contact a demonologist but she hesitates due to Micah’s reluctance. Tension escalates as the unexplained happenings become more frequent and the presence begins to act aggressively towards the couple, whose relationship begins to disintegrate under the stress. Later they uncover evidence that similar events have happened in the past, with ugly consequences for the people involved. Will Katie and Micah meet the same fate? The concept of found footage is no longer enough to drive a full length movie. Let’s face it, anyone who types the title into Google or IMDB can tell in an instant that the events are fictional, which tends to kill the suspense. Thankfully Paranormal Activity uses far more innovative devices, and has two remarkable performances from its leading actors in its favour. The ‘amateur’ style of filming is altogether very convincing with the performers managing to act naturally while simultaneously recording the footage. This technique allows the audience to view the characters through one another’s eyes; in this case, a young couple who have just begun living together. This adds to the intensity and drama, all of which builds within the confines of one setting. Shooting took place over the course of a single week at writer-director Oren Peli’s own house with a crew of three – Peli, his then girlfriend Toni Taylor and best friend Amir Zbeda. The majority of scenes feature only Katie and Micah. This helps create an authentic sense of claustrophobia on screen, one that is tremendously beneficial to the performances, particularly as the relationship deteriorates under the weight of insomnia and stress. By the end the viewer feels just as trapped in the house as the characters - a setting that once was a source of comfort as the audience observed the couple bantering in the intimate environment of home. The atmosphere changes the instant the camera is set down in the bedroom for the first night. The stillness and silence is most unnerving and attention is inevitably drawn to the timer as it shows the hours speed by uneventfully. Once ‘normal’ time is resumed the audience is on the edge of its seat, listening and watching for anything out of the ordinary. Peli builds suspense in these scenes to great effect, pushing the audience further to the brink of terror with every bout of night footage. There are a fair number of ‘jump scares’ and this is used as a selling point through a trailer of audience reaction shots. These serve their purpose well and ensure heart pounding panic continues throughout the night scenes. Rather than coming off as cheap scare tactics these scenes are well timed and executed, much in the same style as Rec (remade as Quarantine). However, more subtle paranormal occurrences make up the most frightening scenes. Effects such as these demand a great deal of ingenuity as a film of this nature is destined to sink or swim based on the perceived authenticity of the demonic presence. The results are admirable in their simplicity; a passing shadow or a door creaking open of its own accord is enough to send a ripple of startled gasps through the entire audience. These build at just the right pace throughout the movie, reaching a crescendo that fills the viewer with absolute terror. Both characters are generally likeable, which is necessary as there are only very brief appearances from the rest of the cast. Their relationship is believable. They are visibly irritated by each other’s quirks and habits and there is a great sense of affection between the two, yet not in a way that comes off as nauseating. However there are several moments where you will find yourself audibly cursing Micah for being a total moron as he sets about doing everything within his power to anger the demon. To an extent, it’s understandable as he would naturally be protective of the woman he loves and their home, both of which are being violated in his eyes. His initial cockiness appears to be born out of the confidence that there is no such thing as the paranormal and that a rational explanation for the phenomena exists. This attitude no doubt reflects of a sizeable portion of any horror movie audience. His opinion seems to change as more evidence of the supernatural is revealed on camera and he becomes obsessed with capturing more footage. Meanwhile Katie, who begins as a relatively sound and stable person becomes anxious to the point of becoming a nervous wreck as she loses control of her home, her relationship and her mind. Paranormal Activity is one of the few horror films of recent years to leave a lasting impression on the viewer. Guaranteed, you’ll be unable to ignore any tiny creaking noise when you try to sleep that night (more than likely with the lights still on). The ability of a movie to make the audience uncomfortable in commonplace surroundings shows a real talent on the part of the director in creating drama, as well as making people jump out of their skins at every turn. Peli has succeeded in doing both of these things well. Horribly, horribly well. Rating: 8/10