Paranormal Activity (2007)

Starring: Katie Featherston, Micah Sloat, Mark Fredrichs, Amber Armstrong

Directed by: Oren Peli

Rating: 1 2 3 and a half

Micah and Katie experience some Paranormal Activity

The premise of Paranormal Activity is so simple it's amazing no-one's come up with it before. Young affluent couple Micah and Katie have been experiencing some odd, inexplicable noises in the night, so they decide to invest in a video camera, to catch the ghostly intruder in the act. The entire film is then of course constructed from the footage they compile – hardly a novel idea, it's true, but one that's used to great effect here.

At first all the high-tech equipment picks up is a few bumps and crashes, but soon, as if the nameless entity sees the camera as a challenge, things begin to escalate and suddenly you find yourself engrossed in really quite a scary film that centres not so much around a haunted house, but a haunted person: Katie.

Cocky Micah at first sees the whole thing as a joke, although his levity is shaken somewhat when his girlfriend admits that she's been dogged by a nameless presence since she was eight years old. Something, he points out, she could have told him before she moved in.  But his amateur ghostbusting techniques and disregard for all things spiritual only succeed in angering the resident demon: leaving Ouija boards lying around and taunting the creature to come and have a go if it thinks it's hard enough do not go down well. As one nervous teenager behind me exclaimed loudly: 'Why would you do that?'

The film's publicity warns you not to see it alone, and this is sound advice, but not so much because the film is scary, but because it's enormously good fun hearing everyone around you get totally freaked out. Normally, like Alice, I get annoyed when people talk in the movies, but on this occasion it all adds to the atmosphere.

Things that go bump in the night: Paranormal ActivityParanormal Activity does exactly what it says on the tin. As its straightforward title suggests, it's a no-nonsense, no-frills flick that manages to deliver more scares than monstrous movies with budgets ten times the size (hello, Hollywood J-horror remakes, I mean you). Well paced and convincingly acted, it skilfully balances light relief with tension, allowing us to see enough of the couple's day to day banter to get to know them, but not enough to get bored. In my opinion, the final frame spoils it, but I'll leave you to make up your own mind about that.

While other movies throw blood and guts at the screen in the hope of bludgeoning us into fearful submission, director Oren Peli knows it’s the little things – the shadow on the wall, the creaking door, the scratching in the wall – that not only scare us in the cinema, but ensure we take that scare home too.

Are you sleeping with the light on tonight? Trust me, it won't make any difference…

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