Paranormal Activity - DVD Review
By Dana Rae Dec 29, 2009, 12:13 GMT
You demanded it and now the surprise hit critics call "one of the scariest movies of all time"* can be experienced in the most terrifying place of all...your home. After a young, middle-class couple moves into what seems like a typical suburban house, they become increasingly disturbed by a presence that may or may not be demonic but is certainly most active in the middle of the night. Especially while ...more
Some say that the true witching hour is 3 am rather than 12 am. Whenever spirits or entities are at their strongest is debatable, but the hours between 12 and 3 am seem very viable in this movie.
I will start by saying that I feel very venerable watching a movie such as this: the people seem real, their problem real and unsolvable. What to do? The question becomes what would you do in a situation such as this?
This movie messed with my head for days afterwards. Perhaps because I was raised in a religious household that kernels such truths down into good and bad and asks those difficult questions about the devil and God, but this film scared the Jesus out of me. Thinking myself rather smart, I watched it during the day but I couldn’t sleep that night and my dreams were weird and disorientated.
All of the hype about it being scary is true, and the case should come with a warning not to watch after dark. In all of its creepiness (most of it mental), I think the worst part was watching Katie standing by the bed watching over Micah as he sleeps as the clock on the camera counts the time down….12…2…3am…
Shot cheaply in the director Oren Peli’s house for around a reported $15,000, most of the scenes take place in the bathroom and bedroom. Katie is played by Katie Featherston, Micah is played by Micah Sloat, the friend Amber is played by Amber Armstrong. In the bathroom, the couple argues, as all couples do, but this argument is about this supernatural thing that is haunting them.
Katie wants to get some outside help. Micah wants to use his camera to record what is going on. She has lived with this for most of her life, since she was a little girl, and there are hints that it burned down her childhood home. She has also learned to have a healthy respect for it, which Micah has not.
Micah wants to record some of the activity with his camera but Katie invites psychic Dr. Fredricks into their home to help them. He tells the couple that he believes that the presence is that of a demon, not a ghost. Micah is the skeptic and doesn’t like this Dr. Fredricks. They argue about him, but as things progress, he finally makes another visit upon Katie’s insistence.
By then, the demon or whatever it is, is so agitated that Dr. Fredricks leaves almost before he gets in the door, saying he cannot stay because the presence is so strong, but another man, a demonologist who happens to be out of the country, can help them when he gets back.
Probably not the smartest of boyfriends dealing with such a problem, Micah seems to taunt it, making bold statements such as it is his job to protect Katie, as well as other such statements questioning its powers. He asks it if all it can do is close and open a door. Some of the first paranormal activity we see through his midnight cam is of the door opening and closing. Simple stuff, really, but horrifying just the same that something is entering your bedroom while you sleep. But the ante is upped as the spirit or entity becomes increasingly malevolent.
In one scene, Micah brings a Ouija board into the house to Katie’s distress and anger. The couple argues and Micah leaves the board on the coffee table and the camera on in the living room. The camera records the board surrounded by a wind and then flames erupt from it. Yeah, really creepy.
The entity seems not to like Micah very much, and does an odd daytime appearance. It breaks a picture of the couple that is hung in the hall, but most of the damage to the photo is to Micah’s face.
Micah’s face is scratched on the inside of the glass and the glass is broken as if the thing punched him in the face. When the couple rushes to find out what caused the crash, a wind blows Katie’s hair as she stands transfixed with fear looking at the ruined photo. Micah, of course, has his camera with him and it is recorded.
Micah tells it ‘to speak English’ and at two separate times, a voice can be heard (or at least I thought I heard it). The movie tends to play with your mind and the first time I think I heard “I want to hurt you” being whispered, and the second time it sounded like, “You are dreaming.” When my husband and I watched this, we had to back it up and listen a few times to both occurrences, as the voice is disembodied and it is hard to understand.
Other disturbing scenes involve Katie being dragged out of bed by the legs and being bitten viciously on her side. The wound looks as if something with needle sharp teeth bit her.
Still other scenes include the door to their bedroom opening and closing, and then as things progress, banging closed. It turns on and off the hall light when they are sleeping, which is really eerie, but a low-cost effect that makes you ask, if it were a ghost, wouldn’t the light bulbs pop?
Micah insists that they powder the hall and entrance to the bedroom with baby powder, and the camera shows the footprints appear when they wake up. There are strange looking footprints (three-toed) by Katie’s side of the bed and in the hall. Katie says the thing wanted them to see its footprints and they are powerless to stop it. You do get a powerless feeling at that point.
In another scene, a picture of Katie as a child is found (supposedly the picture burned up in the fire) in the attic during a nighttime haunt.
Toward the end of the movie, Katie does several things she doesn’t remember and the audience gets the feeling that possession might be imminent. Micah tries, in his seemingly brash way, to help her, but the couple ends up arguing. The psychic mentioned that the entity probably feeds all of negative energy, and when each argument they have, it does seem to get stronger.
Perhaps what makes this movie seem even more based in reality is that the actors’ names are their real names and it is shot like a documentary. All of the footage seen is meant to be from Micah’s set-up camera (but the shaky camera isn’t annoying as it was in films like Cloverfield).
The film made the film festival circuit and has been gathering a fan base since 2007. There are actually three endings: the original, one that was released in theaters, and a third that was only shown once.
The DVD release includes the theatrical version in the film, but also the third alternate ending version as a special feature. The original version of its ending is not included in the DVD, as it is the one that involves the police. No spoilers here, watch and be disturbed on your own!
I watched this with my husband and we had our own debate as to which version was better. He, being the professional movie critic (I am just the volunteer help), liked the third alternate ending version. However, I disagree, I liked the theatrical ending.
I usually watch horror movies with little interest, but I was glued to the screen. And in the last minute, I jumped and screamed. And then I saw those last few seconds over and over when I tried to go to sleep that night.
We also debated about different things they could have done. You can easily pick apart what Katie and Micah could have done but didn’t do. They made no attempt to change their sleeping habits – such as sleep during the day or leave the house at night (since most the activity at the beginning happened at night). Katie seems to think the ghost/demon would only follow her if they went to a hotel, but they never put this theory to the test.
My suggestion was to watch a few seasons of Supernatural and sprinkle the house with salt. Call Sam and Dean. Do something! Anything!
Although I liked the movie, it is one that you can really pick apart due to the fact the couple does nothing to really stop the haunting. If Micah was all about protecting her, why did he not switch places with her and sleep by the door? And please, please sleep with more than a thin sheet with your toes sticking out!
Paranormal Activity is a movie that makes you scared, makes you think, makes you talk about it afterwards. It is a real head spinner and is still in my head weeks after. Watch with caution and definitely during the daytime. 5 stars for the mental anguish inflicted upon me.
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