Tuesday, October 20, 2009

At the Movies: Paranormal Activity

I've got another nifty comic book creator profile, of a seasonal bent, on tap for this weekend, but since Halloween is closing fast and Hollywood is cranking out chillers same as usual, let's take a look at a new film that is worth shelling out a few bucks for, if you like having your wits frightened out of you.

Horror movies tend to inspire one of two reactions. They either effectively engages an audience to willingly suspend its disbelief and go along with the fun, or they miserably fail to capture an audience that has become all-too jaded on the requisite tricks of this well-worn trade. For creative personnel, it’s a tough road to navigate. New thrills and chills that break out of a tired genre are hard to come by, so when something comes along that seemingly rises to the challenge, its nice to actually sit in a movie theater and feel a little scared by what is unfolding onscreen.

In this age of big budget special effects and CGI-generated blockbusters, Paranormal Activity was made for less than $15,000. That is remarkable in and of itself, but even more impressive are a few of the conceits that the filmmakers dispensed with in order to help foster the illusion of reality. This film is one of those “found footage-style” flicks that have become quite popular since ‘The Blair Witch Project” broke box office records in 1999, so gone are the titles, none are present onscreen. No ‘Paranormal Activity’ wording scrolls across, no soundtrack music is present to heighten the mood (you’ll quickly see that none is necessary), no “starring so & so’s”, no “directed by’s” appear either before or after the film begins or ends, there are no eerie sets to speak of; the film was shot at the directors actual house over the course of a single week. In fact the majority of the on-camera action takes place in the bedroom of the characters, where they've set up a camera to record the ghostly goings on in the wee hours of the night over the course of a single month. The featured performers even use their own actual names in crafting their characters. Remarkable!

This is also a movie where spoilers would absolutely ruin the experience, so you will get nothing of that here other than an encouragement to go see it for yourself. Kudos to writer/director Oren Peli.

I will offer a teaser for anyone who takes me up on the challenge to go see this cool horror movie. The tension that is created continually ratchets up throughout the film by building off of everything that occurs within the young suburbanite couples home through believable, naturalistic dialogue and no nonsense special effects that are back-to-basics gems. This is something on the order of director Robert Wise’s cinema classic, The Haunting from 1963, where much of the terror is left up to the imagination of the audience. Paranormal Activity wonderfully mines the same dynamic to great effect. You will be drawn into the lives of this couple and based on what IS shown, really come to dread what is likely going to happen at the conclusion.

So hang on for a wild ride and enjoy having the living daylights scared right out of you! And "Don't See It Alone!"

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