Combustible Celluloid
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With: Katie Featherston, Micah Sloat, Michael Bayouth, Ashley Palmer, Amber Armstrong
Written by: Oren Peli
Directed by: Oren Peli
MPAA Rating: R for language
Running Time: 99
Date: 10/14/2007

Paranormal Activity (2009)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Demon Bedroom

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Made for a very low budget and with minimal cast and settings, Paranormal Activity is an effective scare movie more dependent on ideas than on spectacle or gore. Like horror classics ranging from Cat People (1942) to The Haunting (1963) to The Blair Witch Project (1999), it suggests its terrors rather than explicitly showing them, which leaves far more to the imagination and sends more genuine chills up the spine.

Micah (Micah Sloat) brings home a deluxe video camera and begins to film himself and his girlfriend Katie (Katie Featherston) in their large San Diego house. It seems that unseen forces have been terrifying them while they sleep and Micah hopes to gather evidence. A psychic (Michael Bayouth) warns them that the trouble is probably caused by a demon and that they need professional help, but Micah wants to keep filming and work out the problem by themselves. Unfortunately, the disturbances begin to grow more and more alarming.

The well-paced daytime scenes are comparatively relaxing, while the couple, Micah (Micah Sloat) and Katie (Katie Featherston), try to figure out their dilemma, but the nighttime scenes offer something spookier. The couple sleeps in a static wide shot; the bed, the doorway and part of a hallway is visible. The scary part can be a sound or an image, but it can originate from anywhere within the frame; the movie always keeps us off guard. Some of the character behavior can grate, but that's a minor quibble in an otherwise satisfying, terrifying experience.

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