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Paranormal Activity
Genre Horror
Year: 2007

Paranormal Activity is the quintessential sleeper hit... not only has this indie horror gem been out for a few years, it's all about what goes on when you're sleeping. The film starts without any credits, opting for a title screen where Paramount thanks the San Diego police department and families of Micah Sloat and Katie Featherston for allowing them to broadcast the film. The premise of reality horror, a $15,000 low budget, 10 day shooting schedule and unprecedented box office success instantly align Paranormal Activity with the marketing wizardry behind The Blair Witch Project. However, the two films are worlds apart in terms of content with Paranormal Activity focussing on the private lives of two suburban Americans, instead of going on a witch hunt in the forest.

Writer-director, Oren Peli used his own house to shoot the film, buying in pieces of furniture that would suit the film and thus creating his set. It's an inspiration to independent film-makers as Peli creates such amazing tension on such a limited budget. He realises the impact of 'reality' filming, the authenticity of caught on home video moments and the power of darkness, sound effects and uncertainty.

Paranormal slowly builds to a crescendo as Katie and Micah plan their paranormal investigation, first filming their bedroom at night and then reviewing the footage and sound the next day. Katie's lifelong battle with nightmares, strange occurrences and shadowy figures at the foot of her bed are now the only thing that seems to be stopping the couple from taking their relationship to the next level. The strange dark forces, which seem to be operating at night are not haunting their house... they're locked onto Katie.

Each night's recording is sped up as the time code shows the couple's restful periods, slowing down to give the audience a chance to see what's out-of-the-ordinary. Waking sleep, gentle "breezes", footsteps on the stairwell and strange noises become almost expected as Katie and Micah seek professional help from a psychic and then an exorcist. The dark game of cat-and-mouse grows increasingly scarier as the presence makes itself more and more evident.

The story's locality and the character's easy-going personalities lull us into a false sense of complacency before the night terrors start rattling the cage. Paranormal Activity is definitely not for the faint-hearted and has moments that even the most hardened of horror fans will hold their breath for. The low budget production does mean a lot of handheld camera motion, which will make you a bit nauseous if you're sitting anywhere near the front of house. The production's budget also limited them to a 10 day shoot, which means that some of the scenes have been spliced together mid-sentence to maintain that reality shoot feel.

The actors were allegedly paid $500 each, which gives you an idea of their overall commitment to the project. However, the box office takings have led to a renegotiation and to be fair their original salaries have no bearing on the quality of their performances in Paranormal Activity. There are one or two moments when you wish there had been a more established actor in their place, but the anonymity of these two performers adds to the reality and tension.

Movie goers that enjoyed The Blair Witch Project's objectives will get a rush from this horror mystery thriller, which is already scheduled for a sequel. Overall, Paranormal Activity is a creepy, low budget horror that will make you think twice about switching the lights off before checking in the cupboards and under your bed. It's a movie you have to see on the big screen and one that will probably be hauled out for Halloween slumber parties for years to come.

The bottom line: Chilling.

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