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Experiment in terror

You don’t really need a multi-million dollar budget to create a blockbuster; just ask Oren Peli. With a mere $15000, a clever concept and aggressive marketing, the Israeli-born writer-director has reaped box office bonanza with his debut feature film.

entertainment Updated: Jan 08, 2010 22:42 IST
Rashid Irani

Paranormal Activity
Cast: Katie Featherston, Micah Sloat
Direction: Oren Peli
Rating: ***

You don’t really need a multi-million dollar budget to create a blockbuster; just ask Oren Peli. With a mere $15000, a clever concept and aggressive marketing, the Israeli-born writer-director has reaped box office bonanza with his debut feature film.

A no-stars, no-frills experiment in terror, Paranormal Activity — filmed in 2006, but released globally only last year — evokes comparisons with the trail-blazing The Blair Witch Project (1999). While tapping into our primal fears, it achieves the near impossible feat of transfixing us to our seats throughout the running time of 90 minutes. However, viewers expecting a frightmare full of grisly gore like the Scream or Saw series will be sorely disappointed.

To begin with, there’s not much here plot-wise. All the action takes place within the confines of a suburban home.

Incidentally, the director’s own house in San Diego was used as the set. A young couple (Featherston-Sloat) is distressed by strange noises during the night.

Fearing that a malevolent spirit has re-appeared after several years, the pair install a video camera in their bedroom.

As the nights tick by, the dread escalates, especially for those with an active imagination. The climactic scene is likely to jolt even the most jaded horror film geek.

Peli marshalls his meager resources with commendable skill, making particularly good use of screen space and audio effects.

The absence of star names hardly matters. Katie Featherston and Micah Sloat may be acting novices but
they both display a natural talent for improvisation.

Despite occasional longueurs, this haunted-house thriller is certainly worth a peek.