Of course we have to address the filmmaking techniques and the issue of the "shaky cam" POV. People have heard the concept for this film and worried that they were going to get another Blair Witch Project (too boring) or Cloverfield (seizure inducing camerawork). Paranormal Activity is only short one star for me because the pacing for the first half-hour of its 99 min run time was kind of slow, and offered more creepy atmosphere than actual scares. A slow half-hour in camcorder POV can feel like an eternity - luckily for us, Featherston and Sloat are good actors, with good chemistry, and they, along with Peli, manage to establish an air of almost total authenticity. Katie and Micah's home looks and feels like MY home and their relationship seems so genuine and natural (even the way girl and boy treat the watchful eye of the camera differently ;-) ) that it's easy to forget you're watching a movie, and not actual home video footage. And since there are tripods set up around the house, shaky cam wasn't really much of an issue. When the actors ARE holding the camera, every swipe and turn has you nervous that something is lurking just beyond the peripheral of the lens light.
The authentic feel is really the selling point of this film. It exploits enough realistic common ground to make it feel personal (who HASN'T heard that strange sound echo through their home now and again, or woken up to the feeling that somebody is standing over them?), and since few of us actually sleep with a running camcorder in our bedrooms, who's to say we AREN'T being visited in the night by something evil?
Paranormal Activity succeeds in taking our most relaxed and intimate moments - at home, cuddled up with our loved one(s) - and transforms those moments into sources of high anxiety and fear. I've been with my girlfriend for eight years now (I know, I know), and after we came home from the screening last night we were definitely creeped out - and not just by the creaky floorboards in our apt. We glared at one another through squinted eyes up until bedtime, wondering about any skeletons (no pun) hiding in the other person's closet, or mentally comparing Katie and Micah's emotional trial to the real-life instances where one of us had to help the other through a crazy circumstance. I'm sure we both slept with one eye open.
If you haven't read about it on our site, Paranormal Activity has become something of a phenomenon in the movie industry, ever since Paramount chose NOT to remake it into a big-budget studio flick. As Paramount Film Group President Adam Goodman told us before the screening (and I'm paraphrasing), "This is the future of the movie business, right here...good films by visionary filmmakers made for next to nothing...It can be done these days." I suspect this film will be successful in its grass roots efforts - especially after I watched hundreds of eager line-waiters get turned away from the door. People want to see this film - if not in theaters, then certainly the masses will eat it up on DVD. However, I hope it gets the support it deserves, as it is certainly theater-worthy.
Paranormal Activity is currently doing a "You Demand It!" release campaign: If you want the film to play at your local theater, get some friends together online, go to THIS SITE and cast your vote.
Just don't be mad at me if you're too scared to go to sleep that night...