starring Katie Featherston, Michah Sloat, Mark Fredrichs, Ashley Palmer
written and directed by Oren Peli
by Walter Chaw It's a good try from first-time hyphenate Oren Peli, but it's ultimately an exercise bereft of satisfying, thoughtful payoffs--a couple of generally effective sequences only that way because they cause one to anticipate that something will come of them. Nothing does. Comparisons to The Blair Witch Project aren't entirely off base, either, in that Paranormal Activity is about a decade past its sell-by date with a tale of irritating technophilia that would have felt more current in the Y2K Ludditism of 1999 than it did in the resigned technocracy of 2009--explanation in part for why it's already out of the conversation and never stirred much outrage or controversy when it was causing audiences of teens to collectively fake-shudder the way festival audiences collectively fake-cathect. The new conversation is the one introduced by George Romero's Diary of the Dead and Matt Reeves's Cloverfield, where the unnatural instinct isn't whipping out a digital camera or camera phone, but not. It's a communal experience if it's anything, and as far as such things go, there are still midnight showings of The Rocky Horror Picture Show floating around out there, aren't there? Its pleasures aren't replicable, in other words, and watching it at home reveals it to be little more than a one-trick pony with one brilliant moment that isn't enough to justify the rest of it.