Paranormal Activity Leads to Disappointment

There is nothing like the feeling of waiting to get the crap scared out of you in a dark movie theater. Adrenaline rings through your body as the lights dim. Somebody giggles nervously three rows back. As people settle in there is an aura of collective anticipation. This is exactly how I felt at the opening moments of Paranormal Activity . I sat thinking about all the stories I’d heard of people crying, leaving the theater, even losing bowel control. I sat bracing myself for what could possibly being the most horrifying experience of my life. Ultimately, I was disappointed. The hype proved to just that: hype. Oren Peli’s Paranormal Activity did not make me cry, run away, or poop. I watched it till the end, and when the lights came up, I was able to exit the theater without any outside assistance. It’s a shame too, considering that Paranormal really could have been everything it was supposed to be. The film starts with Micah Sloat turning on his new high-end camcorder and telling the audience about the disturbances he and his girlfriend Katie have experienced. Micah films their daily activities and at night he sets up the camera in their bedroom hoping to capture some "paranormal activity." Right away there are weird noises, moving objects, and a deep hum that will accompany every haunting for the rest of the film. As it progresses, the hauntings become more frequent and more intense, climaxing to the last moment of footage. The story is believable enough, and the hand-held camera is effective without inducing too much nause a. Best of all are the special effects . Formless shadows move across walls and doors, footprints appear on the bedroom floor, and there is an amazing shot of Katie being pulled through the house at night. These are small but important touches that put Paranormal ahead of similar films. The problem with this movie is in the pacing. Micah sets up the camera for the first night and nothing happens. On the second night, the doors moves. Things start to pick up over the next few days but there is nothing too frightening or dramatic until the last 20 minutes. The same things happen over and over. At 85 minutes, it’s not a long movie, but it feels closer to two hours. This is not to say that it’s a bad movie. Compared to most horror movies it’s great, and the ending is spectacular. For a first time director with no previous experience, Orin Peli puts together a solid piece of work, borrowing from other films like Poltergeist and The Blair Witch Project . Peli said in an interview, "I really love movies like The Others and The Sixth Sense , too. Movies that are subtle, not so over-the-top, or gory. I like atmosphere and slow plot build." While I agree with this view on horror flicks, Peli simply takes it too far in Paranormal. The action is built up slowly, and the atmosphere becomes too comfortable to be scary. Viewers are desensitized by the first hour of minor hauntings, and great moments at the end suffer for it.