‘Paranormal Activity’ may cause loss of sleep

4 out of 5 Pitchforks

10-12-09 Paranormal Activity
Directed by: Oren Peli Starring: Katie Featherston, Micah Sloat, Mark Fredrichs
Published On:
Monday, October 12, 2009
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We can never be too sure what frightening things might be happening in our homes while we sleep at night, but “Paranormal Activity” forces us to witness the possibilities.

The film is a heart-wrenching tale that releases the chill factor of what might happen when those unseen choose to stalk and prey on the living.

Recently co-inhabited couple Micah (Micah Sloat), a daytime trader, and English student Katie (Katie Featherston) share a quaint two-story home in suburban California.

This middle-class couple seems to have it all: a sizeable income, a nice neighborhood to live in and, of course, the minor inconvenience of a wicked spirit to keep watch over their bed as they attempt to sleep.

Katie is the first to hear and feel the presence in their home and admits to Micah this is not the first time she has encountered the paranormal.

Micah, feeling as though Katie is just hearing general noises that any big home will make, purchases a high-dollar camera to film throughout the night in an attempt to put her worries at rest by catching whatever is causing these late night disturbances.

This leads to the shocking reality that there is something more going on in the home than simply the sounds of water pipes creaking in the evening hours.

After becoming increasing scared, Katie brings in a psychic (Mark Fredrichs), who warns the couple that he feels the possibility of a demonic spirit in their home and refuses to help them because it is out of his comfort zone and experience level.

Insisting that the psychic is just a quack, Micah is adamant he and Katie can beat the haunting disturbance themselves, but he soon realizes he too might be at a loss with this aggravated apparition.

The home-movie style of filmmaking and the acting by Sloat and Featherston offered even more substance to this horror flick.

Audience members are given the opportunity to really get to know this 20-something couple — and the dynamic struggle a relationship experiences when faced with a battle that might not be surmountable.

The creativity that went into the film and the success of its production is about as interesting as the script itself.

Writer and director Oren Peli, originally a software and video game designer, came up with the idea for the film after his new house started making strange noises throughout the night, according to the movie’s Web site.

With a minimal cast and a crew of only three, Peli was able to complete the filming in only seven days back in 2006 using his house as the set.

From there, the low-budget indie picture was sent to California’s fall horror film festival, Screamfest, in 2007 where it received much attention from audience members.

It was then featured at Slamdance, an indie festival in Utah, where it caught the eye of many Hollywood executives, leading to its pick up by Paramount Pictures. “Paranormal Activity” was released to select national theaters this fall.

Although the realistic, camcorder style of moviemaking is not completely original, the ample use of a tripod allows for very little nauseating camera movements that might be remembered from the 1999 film “The Blair Witch Project.”

Using just a token of blood and featuring low-frequency sounds, daunting imagery and relatable characters as its ammunition, “Paranormal Activity” provides for a much more unsettling experience than that of the gruesome and gory “horror” flicks that have been released in recent years.

Currently, the film is only being shown in select cities, including Tempe, which will feature the movie through the rest of this week and possibly longer depending on the demand, according to Harkins Tempe Marketplace 16.

More information about this movie, including participating theaters, can be found at www.paranormalactivity-movie.com.

Reach the reporter at bryan.brougham@asu.edu.