At the age of 78, my late grandmother (may she rest in peace) hula-danced at the Elk’s Lodge in nothing but a grass skirt and coconut brassiere. That moment, as I’m sure the Benevolent Order would be willing to attest, was more frightening than anything in Paranormal Activity, a somnolent verite-style horror film in the vein of The Blair Witch Project (and Cannibal Holocaust before that).
The plot *cough* is simple: A couple is besieged by an unseen entity in their San Diego home. Micah, played as a complete tool by newcomer Micah Sloat, buys an expensive camera to capture the phenomenon–and proceeds to taunt the visitor like a twelve-year-old. Micah’s girlfriend, Katie (Katie Featherston), seems to have a history of attracting the supernatural, the idea being that the evil follows her wherever she goes. The story unfolds as a series of nighttime manifestations–banging, a slamming door, moving sheets–alternated with daytime meanderings of Micah and Katie looking afraid and desperate for a solution to their problem. The couple even brings in a useless psychic, who tells them what they–and we–already know. And that’s it: banging, worry, banging, worry, banging, worry. Psychic blather. End.
It’s all very boring, really, save for one or two genuinely startling moments. And the ending, when it comes, is a hefty letdown, proving that writer-director Oren Peli learned nothing from Blair Witch‘s truly shocking final scene. Don’t buy into the hype that this is one of the “scariest movies of all time.” Probably ok to catch on cable, but I wouldn’t pay for it.
2009; starring Katie Featherston, Micah Sloat; directed by Oren Peli; 86 min; R; in English.