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“Paranormal Activity,” the most profitable picture of 2009 according to distributor Paramount Pictures, has sequel written all over it. “Paranormal Activity 2” is already in the works scheduled for a 2012 release byParamount. The original cost all of $11,000 to produce according to published reports. It shows.
An ingenious use of the “let’s put it on video” mantra of “The Blair Witch Project” allows every conceivable production corner to be cut. If the footage is shot with one handheld or tripod camera with mike mounted atop, there is an excuse not to mike the actors. All the dialogue is off mike, and some critical lines are inaudible. What’s more, the opening reel is so jumpy that viewers with weak stomachs may experience nausea.
Lighting is another cost saving. So is editing. One does not need to cut multiple angles of the same scene.
There is a saying at the bottom of theHollywood heap that some pictures are so cheap to make that they have to make money. “Paranormal Activity” is one of them. But in this instance the filmmakers stepped in sh*t.
Freshman helmer Oren Peli (who also wrote the screenplay and edited this abortion) should thank whatever God he worships, if any. Not too many people strike gold with a first feature. Fortune may well be blind, but “Paranormal Activity” proves that she is also dumb as a doorknob.
Micha and Katie (Micah Sloat andKatie Featherston) share a comfortable house in San Diego. He’s a day trader. She’s an English major. Nothing could be better except for one silly thing: Katie has been haunted by strange things since her house caught fire at age eight. Micha, who can be a bit pig-headed, buys a high-end video camera on which, allegedly, all pic’s footage is shot. He is determined to capture the ghost or demon on camera. A psychic (Mark Fredrichs) identifies the entity as a demon and advises the couple not to piss it off. Of course, Micha does just the opposite. Nothing much happens for the first hour. There are a few moments of dramatic tension that develop in the the last few reels, but they are telegraphed in advance. Even the reference to exorcism makes one long for Linda Blair, spinning heads, and projectile vomiting.
Eventually, the demon, who has been haunting Katie for fifteen years (must be shy) makes his move. He pulls her off her bed in the middle of the night and gives her a significant bite. Shades of Dracula. Her mood changes. The fear of the demon gives way to satisfaction and eventual demonic possession. Duh?!
Pic’s problem is more than technical. It’s plausibility, or the lack thereof. Anyone who believes in the paranormal would have done significant research and probably at least watched a video of “The Exorcist.” Heck, if the Catholic Church can’t fix it, who can? One has to suppose that the cinematic memories of Americans in 2009 are sorely deficient.
“Paranormal Activity” runs 86 minutes. Its action takes place over about 20 days. As final credits roll, one feels as if one had sat through the whole three weeks. Best thing about pic is Featherston’s cleavage, which is shown in closeup whenever possible.