Paranormal Activity review

Banana Rating: 2 out of 5

I arrived at this movie all aboard the ghost hype train. A bit bored with the tor­ture porn that passes for hor­ror these days, good word of mouth had led to me believe that here was a movie that would scare the liv­ing beje­sus out of me.

Knocked out on the cheap for $15000 by first time dir­ector Oren Peli, and shot entirely in his own home, he appar­ently spent a year tidy­ing up, and redec­or­at­ing. And I did won­der how much of that $15000 went on the new, snazzy HDTV in the liv­ing room. Not a bad little scam really.

The plot gets going straight away. The girl­friend arrives at her house where the boy­friend is mak­ing pre­par­a­tions to film the spooky goings on that have been recently plaguing them. Shot mostly from the point of view of the boy­friend with the cam­era on his shoulder, they sit around, chat­ting about pretty mundane stuff, wait­ing for the night to roll in, and the action to start.

And it’s dur­ing the night, for a while at least, that the film excels. Ever wake up in the middle of the night to find your sleepy brain inter­prets a harm­less shadow in the corner of the room to be a slowly yawn­ing gate­way into some Cthulhu style under­world of soul eat­ing beast­ies? In the still­ness of the night scenes, before any­thing hap­pens, there are moments of genu­ine ten­sion, and at times I found my eyes flick­ing back and forth across the screen, won­der­ing when the next shock, if any, might come from.

Sadly, once it gets back to day­time, it starts to get a trifle dull. The girl­friend moans for a bit about how they need to sort out the ghost, whilst the boy­friend rolls his eyes, and refuses, as he’s far too busy shov­ing a cam­era in her face, or ana­lys­ing ghostly whis­per­ings on his laptop. This gets pretty bor­ing, pretty quickly, save for the entrance and rapid depar­ture of the world’s most use­less psychic. He’s like a plumber who takes a look at a broken pipe, and goes, “What? What’s this? A broken pipe? Good God, why did you call me? I’m a plumber, not a mir­acle worker!”

By the time the film changes tack, it’s too late. The shocks come stronger and faster, as is the way with any hor­ror movie as it reaches it’s cli­max, but the day­time scenes have sapped the ten­sion too much by this point, and I was will­ing the film to fin­ish as quickly as pos­sible. The end­ing (one of three dif­fer­ent ones out there, appar­ently), when it arrives, feels derivative.

Still, the film made enough money to war­rant a sequel, excit­ingly called Paranor­mal Activ­ity 2. I think even if they’d called it Nor­mal Activ­ity, and just filmed a guy com­ing home from a hard day’s work, sit­ting on the sofa, watch­ing foot­ball on TV whilst his wife nags him about fin­ish­ing the dec­or­at­ing, then chances are it would be more thrilling.