Monday, September 28, 2009

Movie Review: Paranormal Activity

Hey bloggites! Sorry for departing without so much as a word on Friday. I meant to get a few posts up, but I spent the entire day slaving away on the house...okay, that's a lie. I spent most of the day lifting things and standing around while my father-in-law slaved away on the house because nobody wants me to touch anything that could leak water or start fires, and I'm not sure why. Then Saturday was an all-day workshop for the UNO Forensics team, which has a blog page now by the way where you can support them (and please, please do, because we can't go to nationals without your help). So, this is a very long way of saying, I'm sorry, I love you, and it won't happen again. I'd buy you flowers but I'm poor and most of you are dudes who don't like flowers. To make it up to you, here's an early review of Paranormal Activity, the new low-budget horror film that's tearing up the interwebs. Lincoln, NE is one of 13 cities to have the movie, so it's pretty sweet that our pal Justin Senkbile was able to get to it. Without further meandering side-thoughts, here's the review:

Ghost Busted
Paranormal Activity’s bare bones of horror
Justin Senkbile

Remember the first time you saw The Blair Witch Project? How about The Ring? No amount of criticism could remove the mental bruise left by these fantastically frightening movies…at least for a week or so. As time passed, they seemed to become generally regarded as kitschy examples of manipulation and little else. I fear the same fate for director Oren Peli's debut feature, Paranormal Activity, an obvious Blair Witch sibling. Standing firmly within the realm of horror, it exemplifies the genre’s faults and virtues; it is a movie that does nearly everything with hardly anything and packs such a lasting punch that cynicism might be the only way to cope.

http://www.scifiscoop.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/09/paranormal_activity.jpg

Katie (Katie Featherston) has a sense that something strange has been going on in the house at night, and her boyfriend Micah (Micah Sloat), jumping at the chance for a little excitement, picks up a video camera. Although he ends up filming constantly, the original idea was to place the camera in the bedroom and record all night in order to ease Katie's fears by watching the presumably uneventful videos the next morning. Of course, the videos are hardly uneventful.

It begins slowly, with moving doors and inexplicable noises. The more Micah films, and the less seriously he takes it, the more surreal the videos get. Peli takes his time building the tension, tossing us between charming daytime scenes (where everyone's safe) and the dark digital view of the bedroom at night (where the audience, almost on cue, squirms and hides in their seats). The actors deserve some credit for the atmosphere as well, their ease in front of the camera and undeniable chemistry as a couple creates an all-too-real landscape, wherein we're able to buy virtually anything Peli chooses to sell.

The film was made for about $10,000, presumably with friends in a borrowed house, and it looks like it. However, beware of those with knee-jerk criticisms of the home-movie nature of Paranormal Activity—the DIY aesthetic is (like Blair Witch) precisely the thing that makes it all work.

Nebraskans have an unusual opportunity with this movie. It's starting its run in 13 college town theaters, and Lincoln's movie haven, The Ross, is one of them. The next cities to get the film will be determined by online voting, building a great amount of hype while at the same time letting the movie sell itself.

Regardless of whether you like Paranormal Activity or not, we'd all better be hoping this thing does well. A huge studio like Paramount buying such a low-budget movie is almost unheard of. Many of the best filmmakers today are working under these same conditions, and the success or failure of Paranormal Activity will potentially change what happens next. If it's a hit, it could be a long overdue lesson learned for the big studios. Earlier this year, Paramount gave us Hotel for Dogs; buy a ticket to Paranormal Activity and show them what's up.

Grade: B+

Thanks, J-Dawg (I've never called him that). This is one I'm keen to check out.

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