Saturday, October 31, 2009

Paranormal Activity

A lot has already been said about the movie. So much so, that my knowledge of its existence came from none other than Times of India - the Mumbai Times section - no less. A movie shot with a hand-held camera, made within a budget of $15000, raking in millions at the box-office after its delayed opening in mid-October this year. (Mumbai Times, keeping with its decorum, hardly spent any space on the movie or what it was about. It quickly moved on to compare the tremendous box office performance of this low-budget flick to those on whom millions had been wasted - Mira Nair's mega movie a big case in point.)
Anyways, I read up about the movie, and was immediately intrigued enough to want to watch it. No better way to get through a difficult week than to scare oneself! And it worked!
Paranormal Activity is a story of a couple who have moved in a two-storied suburban house, and have been vaguely feeling a presence in the house. To confirm their suspicions either way, they get a big video camera and fix it on a tripod in their bedroom. The guy, Mikah, who seems a bit of a nerdy freak, insists on recording almost all of their lives together, and it is this footage that is presented to us as a movie.
From there unfolds a frightening but gripping tale. Every night, the camera captures some strange happenings and confirm the couples' vague feelings about a supernatural presence in the house. The girl Katie becomes increasingly frightened, while Mikah gets excited with the 'cool stuff' he is recording. The fear strains their relationship, and also seems to empower the demonic presence, whose actions seem increasingly bold and unstoppable.
The reason the movie is so frightening is because it feels very real. There is no special sound effect, no theatrical accessories to heighten the senses and put you on edge. The camera silently picks up strange activities, however small and the couple mostly see it only in the morning. At first, it is more the audience which begins to dread these nights than the characters, because to see even small things happen as people sleep peacefully is uncomfortably eerie. Very steadily, the tension begins to heighten and you feel a part of it. And the fear is very real because it seems it could happen to very ordinary, undramatic people, real people, you! Both the actors look very natural in the handheld camera, and the movie does feel like a home video - just a terribly scary one.
For some interesting facts -the entire movie was shot in 7 days, in the director's own home in San Diego. The cameraman was actually Micah (the actors' real names were used in the movie) - who had come prior experience of handling the camera from his college days. There was no script, only a plot outline. It is to the credit of both actors, especially Katie to bring alive a story without much technical assistance.