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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