Oren Peli, formerly a video game designer, launched his film career with the recently-premiered horror movie Paranormal Activity, which he both wrote and directed. Not that you would have any clue who Oren Peli was if you had seen the movie - not even if you sat through the credits - mostly because there are no credits. I know this because I sat in the theater waiting for the credits to come up until every other person in attendance had wandered out. I waited until the projector stopped running and the lights came up. I waited because I refused to believe that a film could be so completely dishonest.
Because of Paranormal Activity's dishonesty, you also wouldn't know that the film starred actors Katie Featherston and Micah Sloat. You wouldn't know that the film was shot over seven consecutive days in a home that Peli purchased that has no record of paranormal activity. Peli doesn't want you to know that by seeing the movie, which appears to be composed entirely of found footage given to filmmakers by a local police department (according to a caption at the beginning of the film).
But, let me back up for a moment and let you know - Paranormal Activity is a massive waste of time, even ignoring its deception. The film documents the trials of a couple, Katie and Micah, and their difficulties with a demon that has been following Katie since she was a child. They call in a psychic, who apparently has a PhD in something since they refer to him as ‘Doctor'. They think about calling a demonologist. They play with a Ouija board against advisement.
During the day, nothing much happens aside from Katie's whining. At night, though, the demonic forces come out to play and do crazy, crazy things. Things like making bumping sounds that are eerily similar to the sound of a train going past. Things like opening doors. I know, terrifying, right? And these things happen once per night - and the film is strung out over many, many days. Which means that the payoff at the end of each day of sitting through yet another scene where Katie whines and then says something so ridiculous about the paranormal that you'd think she had a direct line into Woo-Woo Crazyland, is miniscule. It's a door opening. It's nothing.
The film may have taken only seven consecutive days to film, but it feels like watching it takes fifty.
But the real problem here is not the plot, which is nonexistent, or the writing, which I'm pretty sure actually was nonexistent. The problem is that the film is cashing in on the appearance of being a true documentary. It's cashing in the way The Blair Witch Project did, except The Blair Witch Project wasn't dishonest.
Compare these two movie posters, one from Paranormal Activity, and one from The Blair Witch Project.
Paranormal Activity's movie poster has no credits - just like the end of the movie had no credits. The Blair Witch Project, on the other hand, rightly points out that it's not true by listing the actors, the director, and the producer, amongst others.
Is it any wonder that hardcore believer Steven Spielberg had his hands in this?
Spielberg was given a DVD screener of the film Paranormal Activity just after it was created, and, according to sources, brought it back to the studio in a trash bag the next day because it was ‘haunted'. Why ghosts can't travel through trash bags remains unknown.
The film was altered (the theatrical ending is different from the original), and re-released by Dreamworks and Paramount with the help of Spielberg, which is why you can now see it in theaters everywhere (though I hope you don't).
I've never recommended boycotting a movie, a book, or a piece of music based on the belief system it represented. But I would love it if we all boycotted Paranormal Activity. Not because it's phenomenally bad, though I feel better that it is since you won't be missing much, but because its intent and its success have both feet firmly planted in deceit.
As I left the theater, all the people who left before me milled around outside the doors, talking to one another in loud voices about their belief that the footage was real. They shared their own paranormal experiences. They had a grand discussion about ghosts.
And I wondered, as I often do, why we, the public, keep allowing ourselves to be defrauded to line someone else's pockets.