Paranormal Profits

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 13th April 2010.

The most profitable motion picture ever recently hit retail shelves on DVD and blu-ray. And no, I’m not writing about Avatar. Paranormal Activity, a supernatural thriller made for a paltry US$15 000, has taken more than $100 million at the US box office.

Written and directed by Oren Peli, the film was shot over a week at the director’s own home. Similar to the Blair Witch Project, which also features on the most profitable movie list, the premise of the feature is the discovery of home videos belonging to a young couple investigating strange happenings inside their apartment.

Katie and Micah (these are actually the actors’ real names too) set up a video camera in their bedroom to capture the supernatural activity that occurs while they are sleeping. As things start to go bump (and worse) in the night, the movie taps into our innate fear of what may happen when we are at our most vulnerable, that is, when we’re asleep.

 Originally screened at horror film festival, Screamfest, in 2007, Paranormal Activity attracted interest from Hollywood, particularly Steven Spielberg’s Dreamworks studio. With the intention of remaking the movie with a bigger budget and big name actors, Dreamworks agreed to one last test screening at the request of the director, who believed the original was potent enough for a general release.

The test screening was initially thought to be a failure, as patrons kept leaving the theatre, however, when the producers discovered that the reason for the departures was sheer terror, a viral marketing campaign was started. Coinciding with a very limited cinema release in US university towns, a website was set up where people could demand the US domestic release of Paranormal Activity. As word spread about this frightening flick, Paramount Pictures, which owns Dreamworks, promised to release the film when a million people requested the movie via the website.

In October 2009, as demanded, Paranormal Activity hit cinemas across the US and the rest is history.

Is it as frightening as the marketing campaign would have you believe? Put simply, no. Paranormal Activity works best in a darkened cinema with the sound up loud, or at home during the night with the lights off. The scares are pretty low-tech so don’t expect the Kraken to appear in 3D. The lead actors, who were unknowns before and likely to fade into obscurity after this film, remain believable throughout the film. The repetitive nature of the storyline which continuously returns to the bedtime surveillance camera makes the 86 minute running time seem longer.

Paranormal Activity is an effective supernatural thriller that is worth your time. I definitely recommend that you rent or buy it. This is mostly because I make an appearance in the fan featurette. At 5 minutes and 10 seconds, my spooky face can be seen. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

The top 5 most profitable movies ever:

1. Paranormal Activity

2. Tarnation

3. Mad Max

4. Super Size Me

5. The Blair Witch Project

Published in: on April 20, 2010 at 13:43  Leave a Comment  
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