THE second of two potentially revolutionary films in as many weeks, with the miniscule budgeted Paranormal Activity mincing into British cinemas in a wave of huge profits and proclamations of scariest movie ever (proudly printed in huge letters on the p

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THE second of two potentially revolutionary films in as many weeks, with the miniscule budgeted Paranormal Activity mincing into British cinemas in a wave of huge profits and proclamations of 'scariest movie ever' (proudly printed in huge letters on the promotional poster).

An interesting fact the media has stated across the pond: Paranormal Activity is the single most profitable film ever made, with a current gross surpassing 500,000% of its initial budget. It was made for roughly £8,000 and had made over £70 million so far (even before being released in a number of major nations) - cracking stats indeed.

This formidable record was made possible thanks to one of the best viral marketing campaigns of all-time (and backing from Steven Spielberg too, of course, who - after watching Paranormal Activities two years ago - claimed the movie itself is haunted). Released sneakily to only 12 cinemas in the US on its first week, it was accompanied by a website that encouraged users to view an impressive-looking trailer, exaggerated quotes (as above) and then (here's the great part) tell them to nominate their city to show the film.

Within a fortnight it went from 12 to 155 cinemas and then, amazingly, to over 1900 across the country. Give the power to the people and suddenly everyone wants to see it. Brilliantly.

So it's going nationwide here (straight away though, apparently our appetite is already whet without needing a nomination website too) and it's with intrigue I wonder whether it's going to match what this has been hailed as.

Let's cast our minds back ten years and remember; The Blair Witch Project was the last low budget, huge profit horror and was also hailed as the 'most realistic and scary film ever!' and, if we're honest, it was a bit rubbish wasn't it?

Thoughts Afterwards

IN my lifetime I've been scared by barely a handful of movies.

As an ignorant ten year old I attempted to watch The Shining on Channel 4, after going against the parent's orders of turning off the television at 9pm. I watched with absolute fear the tricycle down the corridors, the weird twin girls, and of course the blood out of the elevator. It's mix of the real, the dreamlike and the psychological state of the protagonist was something I couldn't grasp as a youngster and left a notable mark on me - it took another three attempts to watch it all the way through.

Other than that I've been a little shook up to the original sixties classic The Haunting, a tad freaked out by the goings on in The Ring and the recent Spanish horror / thriller [REC] left a few trembles down the spine (especially during the brilliantly tense latter half).

Well after this proclamation it's to no surprise that I'm to say that I can safely add Paranormal Activity to that list.

It's filmed in much the same way that [REC], Cloverfield and The Blair Witch Project are, and I'm sure there'll be numerous more imitators soon enough. But there's the simplest of concepts here...

It features one house, one camera and a couple already in the midst of paranormal oddities. The cocky boyfriend Micah (played by the similarly named Micah Sloan in a resoundingly 'ok' performance) buys a new camcorder to attempt to capture some of the bumps in the night he and his missus have witnessed in recent sleeps.

Throughout the day there's film snippets of the couple together (usually him annoying or intruding the privacy of his girlfriend) and then at night he places the camera on a tripod at the end of the bed. It's then we, the viewer, witness 'live' oddities that the couple are unaware of as they dream through it.

It all slowly builds up to an interesting and horrifying crescendo; much to the couples fault (if we're honest) as Micah repeatedly insults whatever presence is in the house. His girlfriend Katie (again the actress matching the character's name, Katie Featherston is great and very believable in this big screen debut) warns him to back off the childish bantering with spirits, as she's sure that the presence has followed her for years.

The film stands on the general principle of 'less is more', with audience silence playing into the fear during the night scenes. I was often left staring at the couple silently sleeping for good portions of time, my breath held and expectant. I've grown up expecting huge shocks and jumps but not here - my paranoia is met with the simplest movement of a door, a creek downstairs...

Recent horrors have upped the ante on gore and visual nightmares to really freak the viewer out (the less discerning of movie goer anyway, the majority roll their eyes and hope for a story to follow the dissecting, torture or murder).

Director Oren Peli cleverly does away with most visual fright cues and it's all down to the sounds. Throw the horror rule book out the window; the withdrawn nature of the demonic presence left me absolutely on the edge of my seat, looking all around for subtle shadows or movements but being greeted with thumps, footsteps and even worse... silence...

The realism is the genius here, with many cinematic clichés torn away and in place the threat of absolute honesty. Could this be happening as I sleep? Was the door open last night? Was that creek the person living downstairs? Is the window shaking because of the wind?

I've yet to experience a night in my flat after seeing this but I fear these questions could roll through my mind. I also regret going for a flat with wooden floorboards now.

Sadly the gem of the movie, the realism, is also a why parts of the film are marred. The scenes in the daytime, mainly at the beginning of the film, are a little irritating and go on too long. I know it's for build up and for character strengthening and all that - it's just the night scenes are so well done I wanted to fast-forward to them.

Flaws are questionable though, most being ironed out as the film went on, and the plot stayed captivating throughout.

The effects, although minimalist, are really well done (especially with the tiny budget!) and the sound is the real masterpiece here. I'd imagine when this gets a DVD release that a viewing with headphones on (during the night scenes anyway) would be an even greater experience.

For those scared of the dark (or of monsters in the closet) then this isn't going to help one bit. But you'll love it if you like:

1. Horror movies.

2. Independent movies that reach cinema status thanks to wide acclaim.

3. The paranormal, namely the brilliant late nineties BBC series Strange But True (do you remember that?) or the popular Living show Most Haunted.

4. Interesting cinema experiences, featuring grown men with their hands over their mouth and couples leaving in tears.

So yes, it's quite a watch. Those with a nervous disposition should probably give it a miss though, just in case. But for those wanting a proper scare then I wonder if it'd be better to watch in your own home though, the very place that may also house a demon of some sort...

You deny it now (your perfect abode is not haunted!) but give Paranormal Activity a watch and those creeks you hear at night may not be just the innocent sound of your walls and pipes.

TIM LINCE

4/5 Stars