Micah and Katie have just moved in together, and Katie is convinced she is being haunted. She feels as if this haunting has been following her ever since her childhood and that it is now residing at this new house, and the apparition, whatever it is, has begun to take an extra fond interest in her. Micah isn't quite sure how seriously he really takes it, but nonetheless, he buys an expensive camera to help Katie catch any strange happenings on film. He is at first amused by the camera and constantly documents even against Katie's pleas to not torment whatever presence they're dealing with. Things happen for the most part when the two of them are asleep, so each night Micah sets up his camera in the same spot in the bedroom to record.
This is "Paranormal Activity," the next entry into the genre of independent horror in the same spirit of "The Blair Witch Project." It's being cautiously leaked and was playing in only 13 cities this past weekend in order to build up the hype. The thing is that it deserves the hype because this little piece of horror is the real deal: a genuinely terrifying and physically draining experience. The controversy surrounding this film is about the debate on whether or not what unfolds is fictional. It is filmed in the style of "found footage" that has been spliced together. I can guarantee none of it is real, but the success of the movie is in convincing you that it is. You'll constantly be reminding yourself that it's only a movie in order to keep your composure. The filmmakers put up an illusion that draws you in without any explanation, blurring the lines between reality and fiction. Assisting are the two shocking performances of the couple where the breakdowns, the misery, the anxiety, it all feels almost uncomfortably true. The special effects, too, while seemingly simple, make a profound impact.
With each introduction of the nighttime footage in the bedroom comes unbearable suspense with just waiting for what's to happen. Relief washes over not only the couple in the coming morning but the audience, too. And then it starts up all over again each night only to get progressively more intense. I refuse to give away any details of what we end up seeing because the power of this film is in witnessing it for yourself. I will state, though, that this is an example of a perfectly structured movie. The build-up is intentionally slow and tense, and it gradually escalates up to a climactic release that is purely unnerving and immensely satisfying.
"Paranormal Activity" will shake you. It will redefine what you expect from a modern horror flick. One that truly, truly scares you witless. This is one that'll mess with your head, and being scared to go to bed the night after having seen this movie is a guarantee. It hits close to home, and therein is its genius.