Some movies are a more shared experience than others, and that's certainly the case with Paranormal Activity, a micro-budget horror flick about things that go bump in the you-know-what in a nice new home.
This minimalist chill-fest could be the new Blair Witch Project, or so Paramount Pictures hopes.
And at the right moments, it is genuinely hair-raising. Something about seeing terror through the viewfinder of a video camera lends it veracity, like watching America's scariest home videos. Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, Blair Witch and Cloverfield cashed in on that phenomenon. So does the limply titled Paranormal Activity.
Katie (Katie Featherston) and Micah (Micah Sloat) are young, rising middle-class unsophisticates who share a two-story house in a San Diego subdivision. But she's hearing things. She's "haunted," she insists. Her can-do beau wires up a new camcorder with night vision to record them, day and night, to see what is making all those weird noises. Micah, a day trader, isn't buying Katie's frights, and he taunts whatever it is that's scaring her.
"That's all you've got? I'm calling you out!"
Katie summons a psychic, who only warns, "You can't run away from this." They should stop payment on his check.
Night after night, they gather video evidence that something is messing with their relationship, their sleep and the covers on their bed.
Movies of this budget ($15,000, they say) develop a legend based on their cost, one that sometimes obscures the film itself. This is more fun than most studio horror films that drop into theaters most weekends. Is it scarier? Only occasionally.
But gather your friends and catch Paranormal Activity. If it doesn't spoil your sleep, at least it'll put a damper on any bedroom camcorder games you have planned.