Almost two years after it was first screened, the $15,000 indie horror film ‘Paranormal Activity’ will finally have its Australian release at the end of 2009. Since that first festival screening in the States, the hype for the film has reached ‘Blair Witch’ proportions. And with good reason – ‘Paranormal Activity’ is one of the scariest films ever made. Unpredictable and hyper realistic, it won’t just have you jumping; it will leave you physically shaking.
The story is simple enough: a couple hearing strange noises while they’re asleep decide to set up a camera to catch any spooky behaviour. The film divides into documented night scenes, where we watch the sleeping couple via a stationary camera, and mobile day scenes, where we see Kate and Micah’s reactions and the growing tension inside the house. Initially the day drama feels like a relief to the horror sections but more and more it just accentuates our dread for the next ‘Night #’ title. By about Night #19 there were shudders and loud moans from its initial Aussie audience, as in “We don’t know how much more of this we can take”.
‘Paranormal Activity’ is not a film that depends on gore or shocking moments. Unlike most flicks of its kind, it’s a horror film built almost exclusively on dread. Violence is withheld, fuelling our anticipation for it. The anticipation gets to the point where the audience isn’t just reacting – it’s implicated. What may have started off as the neutral gaze of the camera has gradually become the eyes of the demon itself. It is less Kate who is possessed in the film than us. The demon is seeing through our eyes. And the ultimate effect isn’t just terrifying, it’s traumatic.