Paranormal Activity isn't a film, it's a phenomenon. A quick update for those unfamiliar with the backstory. The film, which centers on a young couple who are haunted by a supernatural presence, was made in 2006 for approximately five lakh.
It is entirely set in a suburban house and was directed by a video game designer named Oren Peli, who has no formal training in direction. Through a circuitous route, Paranormal Activity made its way to Steven Spielberg who watched it in his home.
Not long after he watched it, the door to his bedroom inexplicably locked from the inside. The next day, Spielberg brought the DVD to his office in a garbage bag because he thought it was haunted. Since its release in October, Paranormal Activity has earned over 500 crore.
Those are the fun facts. The downside is that the film simply doesn't match the hype. Like the Blair Witch Project or District 9, Paranormal Activity works with found footage. There are no opening credits in the film. We only see a credit thanking the families of the couple, Micah Sloat and Katie Featherston.
Micah and Katie live in a standard- issue suburban American house. When Katie senses a supernatural presence in the house, Micah rigs up a camera in their bedroom to catch whatever it is that's making doors open and shut by themselves.
The film we are watching is ostensibly the footage that was shot. So it is by design, amateurish and jerky.
While Katie is scared senseless by the happenings, Micah is cocky. At one point, he even taunts the presence saying, you're worthless, you're nothing. We see only one other character in the film - a psychic who declares that what they really need is a demonologist and disappears.
Unlike torture porn movies like the Saw and Hostel series, Paranormal Activity functions on the motto that less is more.
There is hardly any blood in the movie and you never actually see the demon. The film is a waiting game.
Peli builds up the audience's dread with a few smart scenes - in a particularly creepy one Katie stands still and stares at Micah for hours as he sleeps.
In another the bedsheet suddenly moves. But does any of this scare you witless as the marketing campaign suggests? Absolutely not.
In fact, as the hauntings get worse and things continue to go bump in the night, you might find yourself getting restless and bored.
The acting is mediocre and the dialogue is limited to: "Micah I'm scared, come back, where are you going, something's wrong."
I get scared easily but instead of being terrifying, Paranormal Activity just seemed clunky and tedious. It just didn't make me gasp enough.
I think the trick to making this movie work is to watch it in a theater with loads of friends. As a collective experience, it might be fun and perhaps even, frightening. Otherwise, it's not much more than a clever home-video.