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Popcorn & Prejudice: A Movie Blog

Seattle Times writer Moira Macdonald muses on moviegoing. Email Moira: mmacdonald@seattletimes.com.

October 1, 2009 at 10:53 AM

Anyone seen “Paranormal Activity”?

Shades of “The Blair Witch Project”: A low-budget horror movie has slipped into view, gathering word-of-mouth raves and causing audiences, by all accounts, to freak the hell out. It’s “Paranormal Activity,” the tale of a young couple whose house may be haunted by demons, currently screening at midnight at the Neptune — and, I just heard from a publicist, opening in the Seattle area for a regular run next Friday (the 9th). The movie, directed by Oren Peli and made for a reported $15,000, made its debut at Sundance in 2008. DreamWorks toyed with the idea of picking it up, and Steven Spielberg decided to take a look at it. Since then, it’s had a number of test screenings, and was picked up by DreamWorks for a planned remake. And . . . well, see what the Los Angeles Times says:

Steven Spielberg was certain his copy of “Paranormal Activity” was haunted.
It was early 2008, and the director’s DreamWorks studio was trying to decide whether it wanted to be a part of the micro-budgeted supernatural thriller. As the story goes, Spielberg had taken a “Paranormal Activity” DVD to his Pacific Palisades estate, and not long after he watched it, the door to his empty bedroom inexplicably locked from the inside, forcing him to summon a locksmith.
While Spielberg didn’t want the “Paranormal Activity” disc anywhere near his home — he brought the movie back to DreamWorks in a garbage bag, colleagues say — he very much shared his studio’s enthusiasm for director Oren Peli’s haunting story about the demonic invasion of a couple’s suburban tract house.

OK, that’s a little freaky. Though DreamWorks at first planned to remake the film, they are releasing Peli’s original version (with a new ending) and have developed an elaborate marketing campaign — first releasing the film for midnight screenings in college towns (wait — Seattle is a college town?) to build buzz for a regular release later. That release had been planned for Halloween, but it’s being moved up presumably in response to demand. The midnight screenings at the Neptune last weekend sold out; the ones this weekend are expected to as well.
So, is this the scariest movie since “The Exorcist,” as some say? (True confession #1: I’ve never been able to sit through all of “The Exorcist.”) Or will it sag under all the hype, as “Blair Witch Project” eventually did? (True confession #2: I saw “Blair Witch” and didn’t find it all that scary. Then again, by the time I saw it, it had already been hyped to such a point that no film could have lived up to it.) If anyone out there has seen “Paranormal Activity,” chime in. Were you freaked out? Are you still? Anyone planning on going this weekend?

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