Exactly 10 years ago, The Blair Witch Project divided audiences every bit as much as it unsettled them. So when I say that Oren Peli’s Paranormal Activity, a haunted-house thriller shot for $11,000, was made very much in the peekaboo-vérité spirit of Blair Witch — and that, in fact, it may be an even scarier film — you could find that frightening in one of two ways. You might say, ”Cool, I’ve got to ? see that,” or you may think, ”No, I won’t get fooled again!” What I can tell the Blair Witch skeptics is that in that movie, you never really did get to see very much, but in Paranormal Activity you do, you honestly do — though in a slow-build way that’s freaky and terrifying.
The entire film takes place in the two-story San Diego home of sweet but spiky Katie ? (Katie Featherston), who claims to be plagued by demons, and Micah (Micah Sloat), her obnoxious boyfriend, who totes around a video camera to record evidence that those spirits are real. The two joke and bicker, but at night we see them asleep, the camera at a fixed angle in their dankly lit bedroom. The shot keeps skipping ahead, hour by time-coded hour, until stuff starts to…spook. With ? its this-is-really-happening vibe, Paranormal Activity scrapes away 30 years of encrusted nightmare clichés. The fear is real, all right, because the fear is really in you. A-
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