04 February 2010

Paranormal Activity - DVD out 22 March 2010

Paranormal Activity
Released on DVD and Blu-Ray 22 March 2010.

The horror phenomenon of 2009 makes its appearance on DVD with the suspense, originality and most importantly, the scare-factor all intact. In fact, in some ways the conversion does the movie a favour - viewed in one’s home the movies subtleties and old-school chills come out into their own. One more point on this, the soundtrack is integral and deserves to be heard through a decent speaker system if the viewer is lucky enough to have one…

The plot itself is a fairly familiar tale of haunting and possession. Barely leaving the middle-class suburban house that is central to the film, the story follows a young couple’s nocturnal disturbances with a seemingly demonic presence that centres upon Katie, a student who has past experience with the paranormal.

Where the film differs – although sharing mood, atmosphere and some stylistic tricks - from a past classic such as Poltergeist or The Exorcist – is that Katie’s boyfriend Micah chooses to film the couple’s sleeping patterns on his fancy new camera in an attempt to understand what is going on. It is his footage that makes up what we see on screen.

Of course, this sort of ‘real’ footage as well as the police notes at the beginning and end of the movie (and the use of the actor’s real names) brings to mind another earlier horror phenomenon, The Blair Witch Project. Many sources have drawn unfavourable comparison between the two; and there is no getting around the fact that Activity borrows heavily from that film. Even some of the initial hype and Internet based marketing campaigns were similar. Certainly, it cannot be claimed that Activity is anywhere near as original as that previous movie.

However, for my money it is a more effective horror movie. Director Oren Peli is clearly a fan and in effect what he has done is a stripped down, minimal version of Blair Witch. In the final analysis it completely works as a scary movie - it produces enough jumps in its 90 minutes to fully deserve its reputation. The fixed set-up of one camera focused on a sleeping couple with unknown threat lurking is what stays in the memory. Like all great ideas it is a seemingly simple one – and one that probably every aspiring filmmaker wishes they had had first.

Note. The DVD comes with an alternate ending added as an extra. (This is Peli’s original ending which Spielberg’s producers decided to alter when it was realised that it ruled out the possibility of a money-spinning – and almost inevitably crappy sequel (PA 2 is being made by the bloke that did Saw IV. Nuff said…) There is also another version of the ending haunting the internet as well.)

Robert Monk