I felt that after The Blair Witch project and its use of the "found footage" method nothing would prove as successful or as scary as that film. I was wrong; Cloverfield used the same filming style and became a standout film upon its release. However, when approaching Paranormal Activity, I expected little more than a domestic version of Blair Witch...oh how I was mistaken. Oren Peli's psychological approach to a personal phobia results in an eerie film that, while not brilliantly acted is without a doubt one of the scarier films I have seen in the past few years. It combines the suspense of any high budget horror movie, yet sparsely uses special effects and manages to pace itself much better. Furthemore unlike many of its contemporaries Paranormal Activity delves into the human psyche and its preoccupation with the unseen, even if what we want to discover proves to be deathly.
The film, as noted earlier, sets itself up as a "found footage" documentary. It follows Micah (Micah Sloat) and his girlfriend Katie (Katie Featherston) as they attempt to videotape and record audio of a entity that Katie clams to be haunted by. Of course, in classic horror fashion Micah finds this to be absurd but plays along with the ordeal with hopes of creating different types of videos with Katie. Slowly through reviewing the video, and using various avenues of demonic communication Katie and Micah discover that their house is indeed possessed by a demon, one that desires to possess Katie and maim Micah. Despite their best efforts to escape the unseen demon, Micah and Katie fall victim to it in what may be one of the best closing scenes to a horror film I have ever seen, and in found footage fashion the film simply ends, no credits and little explanation for the aftermath of Katie.
I will admit up front that I may be reading too much into this film, but I cannot help but feel that it was intended to be something far more analytical than a simple horror film. I think Peli envisioned the film to be a commentary on the public nature of relationships in a society that is growing more technologically invasive with each day that passes. The film shows the downfall of their relationship, using the demon as a metaphor for jealously, distrust and animosity. No matter what the couple does, one thing is certain, they cannot escape the gaze of the camera. The intervention of friends only prove to divide Micah and Katie, as it becomes a point of contention over who is properly dealing with the demonic issues. In a moment of brilliance, Peli has a psychologist/psychic visit the house only to admit that he is of no use to this couple, not only in regards to their demon possession, but for their decaying relationship as well. While the ending is certainly an unlikely outcome for a splintering relationship, it does serve to show that such divisions can prove drastic if not properly dealt with. This film is primarily a horror film, but it serves a secondary purpose as an eye into contemporary romance its how easily love can falter in the face of obstacles.
This movie is intense and may prove too much for the faint of heart. However, it is a sound horror film and certainly a new convention in the genre. It is sad to see the director going in the route of multiple sequels, but this is certainly a stand-alone work worth owning for horror and film buffs alike.