Well, this picture will have to cover a few days (for now) since I've fallen so far behind and I'm not sure I'll be able to catch up by Halloween. Paranormal Activity would fall into the "found footage" sub genre of horror (The Last Broadcast, The Blair Witch Project, Cloverfield, Cannibal Holocaust, etc). Fortunately, I wasn't aware it was a found footage type of film going in. Unfortunately, they spoil the thing with a bit of text at the beginning stating that the producers would like to thank the families of Katie and Micah (our two leads) which sorta implies that they're either dead or missing. My expectations were more along the lines of this being a "ghost hunters" or a Poltergeist type situation, only they tried to fool us into thinking this was actually real. You know, a few scares, a few jumps, everyone comes out ok in the end except for the ghosts who are still dead.
Instead (and slight spoilers may abound, so tread carefully...or don't tread at all) what we get is a little different. Katie and Micah have been dating for three years. She's a professional student. He's a douchey day trader. She moves into his house in San Diego, a two floor number with a pool out back, three bedrooms, sparse furnishings, giant tv, etc. The house isn't isolated. We got a sunny neighborhood, lots of houses, mind-their-own-business neighbors. The house looked brand new, so not your typical haunted house either. Well, here's a minor spoiler. The house ain't haunted. Katie is. Turns out she's had experiences since she was 8; feeling a presence, strange noises, unexplainable fires, etc. Micah has a point when he says this information could have been useful before she moved in.
Of course, Micah embraces this as a great opportunity to capture some paranormal type activities on camera. He sets one up in the bedroom, on a tri-pod to see what happens while they sleep. They turn the thing off once during the entire picture and it's for the freaking sex act. Everything in this picture is shown through the lens of that camera. During the day, Micah walks around with it while Katie tells him to put the thing away. She tells him that often. The first night, around 3 AM, everything seems fine. Then suddenly the door moves a few inches, then it moves back. Could be those swirling San Diegan crosswinds coming in through the window I guess. Things progress a bit, Katie calls a psychic who doesn't really help much. Apparently (and here is another spoiler) they're not dealing with a ghost. It's a demon, not the psychic's realm of expertise. He gives them the number of a good demonologist and leaves claiming "I've angered it just by being here." Thanks man, big help.
The "activities" progress from relatively harmless (the door) to pretty fucking terrifying (loud crashes, loud footsteps coming up the stairs, growls, and much worse). Micah doesn't help matters by calling out the demon, saying things like "this is MY house", buying a Ouija board which promptly burns on camera, of course, while they're out. Micah is incredibly unlikeable, but Katie's got our sympathies. The performances by these two non-actors are, for the most part, convincing. Katie calls the demonologist, against Micah's wishes, but he's out of town. Things get more desperate, bodily harm becomes a possibility. I guess there are no other demonologists in California?
This one's a rollercoaster. We got the moments of calm (daytime, for the most part) which lead to terrifying moments (anything after bed time). The anticipation becomes unbearable. The creepiness nearly unrelenting. I looked forward to the day time shit just so I could catch my breath. After a while, the character actions start to border on the idiotic. You got the footage, the proof! For chrissakes, have a bunch of friends stay the night, show the police, contact some family, do something! Don't just go to bed the night after Katie (spoiler!) is dragged from it. Call another demonologist, please. The special effects are seamless to the point that you'll be asking yourself "how did they do that?" a few times.
I guess we're all just a bunch of voyeurs, demons included. While our couple records every occurrence in their bedroom in hopes of catching a glimpse of the entity, our entity is clearly watching their every move. Whether, it's infatuated with Katie is never overtly explained. There's some connection there. Ironically, the one time they turn off the camera is to have sex. The demon saw it all and probably wasn't too happy, especially not with the "that was illegal in Kentucky" line. The demon wanted that ass first, Micah. Way to anger the demon.
The movie nearly blows it with an ending, apparently suggested by Steven Spielberg, that shows way too much while giving the audience their first view of some clearly computer generated bullshit. Something more subtle would have been preferred, perhaps one of the two alternate endings that were actually filmed. Despite that disappointment, this one might scare you. There's no escaping this type of entity. Katie can run, but it will follow (or so the psychic tells us). Still, I'll take my chances in a fully staffed hotel. I was more creeped out during the movie than actually frightened. Then, later that night, I lay in my bed until 2 or 3, watching TV, afraid to go asleep since it could mean waking up in an hour or two when my bedroom door opens and slams shut (on it's own). Or worse, with my roommate standing at the foot of my bed in a state of catatonia although, that would be horrific for other reasons.