This weekend I had the chance to catch Paranormal Activity, and since it has only appeared in 14 theaters and I enjoyed it, I had better do my part to generate some buzz.

I’m not going to give away the plot, and for full effect, you shouldn’t read any review that does. This film is about surprises - not plot twists, since there isn’t a plot in the traditional sense (nor would you want there to be), but elements in the timeline which you somehow find plausible in a terrifying way. I was in a theater full of skeptical college students and movie buffs, and not one of them disrupted the show, whether it be by shouting out an inconsistency (tends to happen at horror movies) or even strolling out for a bathroom break. It’s subtle and transfixing and the polar opposite of whatever ADD-infused abomination the Rob Zombie remake factory is churning out this year.

This is a unique breed of film, and it has to be, because of its lower-five-figure budget. And it’s nothing like Blair Witch, if that’s what you’re thinking – the camera isn’t shaky, and the events unfold entirely inside the confines of a modern home, starring the sophisticated and rational-thinking couple Mikah and Katie. Katie makes bead necklaces while Mikah knows his way around a computer as a day-trader who just brought a camera home. They don’t follow a script and are often times hilarious in their banter, with relatable fears, reactions, curiosities and vigilance. They’re just two people poking the camera around the house to prove or disprove Katie’s vivid ideas on what has been bothering her since her last home mysteriously burned down. They’re not trapped, but you’ll eventually feel that way as they fumble in the dark over and over only to be horrified after they find a light switch.

After a few escalating rounds of this, you’ll be dreading the next segment of the story, which is bookended by time-lapse footage of them sleeping. When it’s interrupted by a freakish incident, you’re as unglued out as they are and you’ll beg for the them to turn the shut the door, call the police or even leave - all of which they consider at one point or another before realizing it might be hopeless.

If you haven’t caught some of the buzz, I’ll just warn you right here: expect to be scared out of your pants as the rest of it unfolds. No one even spoke as we left the theater. My advice? Don’t come home to a dark house after seeing this. Leave the lights on beforehand, or spend the night at the nearest Denny’s. At least there, the night demons are predictable.

Posted Sun 04 October 2009