Katie Featherston and Micah Sloat in Paranormal Activity (2007)


(director/writer: Oren Peli; editor: Oren Peli; cast: Katie Featherston (Katie), Micah Sloat (Micah), Mark Fredrichs (The Psychic); Runtime: 99; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Jason Blum/Oren Peli; Paramount Pictures; 2007)
“A pseudo reality horror pic in need of an exorcist.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A pseudo reality horror pic in need of an exorcist and, also in need, for the obnoxious lead couple to ease up on all their tiresome bickering. It channels the same vibe as The Blair Witch Project. One-man crew Oren Peli takes his directorial bow in this creepy supernatural flick. It’s a frightfest film that plays best as a Midnight Movie for the college date crowd. It was made on the tiny budget of between $10,000 and $15,000, and has taken in already over 34 million dollars. The no-frill pic (no CGI special effects) looks crudely made, and you got me what makes folks want to see such hokum. It seems to be a magnet for the Ouiji board trade, and those who like to ride roller coasters. I found it a wearisome drag, entertained only by the astonishing screams emanating from the audience.

A well-off unmarried San Diego couple, college student Katie (Katie Featherson) and techie-inspired day trader Micah (Micah Sloat), hear strange sounds at night and decide to document poltergeist-like disturbances with high-tech nocturnal surveillance cameras and tape recorders placed in their bedroom. To relieve their anxiety, they call in a psychic (Mark Fredrichs) who tells them he can’t help because there’s a demon present and not a ghost, and his only expertise is with ghosts. He also tells Katie that the demon has been following her around since childhood and she can never get away from it by just moving. The arrogant Micah talks Katie into not calling the demonologist the psychic recommended, saying he can handle the demon. For the next three weeks we follow the couple and the bizarre nocturnal happenings recorded on the camera, as the filmmaker keeps raising the scare level–going from a creaking door to something more blood curdling.

At its best, this can be viewed as a film-school exercise that might do if you’re in a goofy mood (like stoned or just feeling stupid), prefer an amateur homemade flick over a slick Hollywood one and like your supernatural pics without overt violence. In no way does this shrill film come close in executing its cinematic philosophy that ‘less is more’ to equal the similar philosophy-themed superb horror/supernatural films of Val Lewton.