Today I saw Paranormal Activity, starring Katie Featherston and Micah Sloat.
It is not often that a film with long periods of nothing can keep me gripping my theater seat, shifting and fidgeting with anxiousness throughout, but this one did.
Katie and Micah are a twentysomething couple who live together in a house that appears too fancy to belong to a graduate student and a day trader, but horror films demand a greater suspension of disbelief, so I'll see past that detail.
They seem like a happy enough couple—she comfortably roams the house in skimpy tank tops and unflattering boxer shorts; he's on the obnoxious side, but clearly in love with her.
When we join their life in progress, Micah is trying out his new video camera by filming Katie in everyday situations (studying, pouring wine, etc.) and attempting to catch 'evidence' of whatever paranormal force seems to be disturbing her at night.
The shaky camera work isn't as nauseating as that of The Blair Witch Project, but it does serve as a constant reminder that the production quality isn't going to get any better.
Said camera is soon anchored on a tripod facing their bed each night to be left on as they sleep, and us audience members are granted the privilege of seeing things happen as the footage is captured.
First, the only indication of unrest is the quiet, kooky music. Whenever the time on the video clock advances to the place where we're supposed to pay attention, the score creeps into the background. It's an obvious technique, but in a charmingly low-budget way, it works.
Next are the slamming doors, Katie's mysterious sleepwalking, hints about her imperfect childhood, and the frustration that builds from Micah's resistance to call the demonologist (recommended by a ghostbuster) for help. We want him to quit being such a dork and we want her to do what she needs to do on her own if he's not on board.
Instead, he plays with a Ouija board and makes things worse.
Without giving anything away, that's the beginning of the end, which is unfortunately much weaker than the story's build-up.
That said, for only four people appearing on-screen and only one set utilized in the entire film, the writer did mount a healthy dose of suspense and old-fashioned jumpy payoffs. It's just a shame the big finale didn't deliver.