Katie and Micah have been hearing odd noises in the night, so Micah buys a video camera to record things while they're sleeping. These eerie experiences have haunted Katie all her life, so they consult a psychic (Fredrichs) who tells them it sounds like a demon rather than a ghost. Over the next three weeks, there's an increasing amount of night-time activity, starting with loud bumps and swaying light fixtures, then escalating to sleepwalking, sinister footsteps and freaky physical attacks.
The film is set up like The Blair Witch Project and Cloverfield as a collection of found footage; there are virtually no credits, as if they're fooling anyone.
And while this home-made approach is extremely tight, never abandoning the perspective, it's not like we haven't seen it all before. Fortunately, most scenes are shot with a tripod, which minimalises that shaky-cam effect. And as with the previous films (see also Rec/Quarantine), we never for a moment believe it.
Featherston and Sloat are a thoroughly convincing couple, improvising much of their dialog and realistically portraying the strain that comes between them as these events get increasingly frightening. It's also remarkable how well they keep their performances in check, never going over the top with their terrified reactions; like we would, they respond to things with a balanced mixture of humour, curiosity, anger and fear. The problem is that it's not actually that scary for us as moviegoers.
Writer-director Peli creates an eerie mood by setting the story in what looks like every suburban house in America (and there are other nods to Poltergeist as well), although we never have a sense that either Katie or Micah have a job that can pay for it. As we wait (and wait) for something to happen, Peli indulges in extremely clever touches, from the staticky sound mix to shadows, wind and some chilling physicality. But if he wanted to make a movie that was truly horrifying, he needed to set up and build the suspense properly. Ramping things up more quickly would have helped a lot.
Run time: 86 mins
In Theaters: Friday 16th October 2009
Box Office USA: $107.9M
Box Office Worldwide: $193.4M
Budget: $15 thousand
Distributed by: Paramount Pictures
Production compaines: Blumhouse Productions, Solana Films
Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 83%
Fresh: 159 Rotten: 33
IMDB: 6.4 / 10
Director: Oren Peli
Screenwriter: Oren Peli
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