Director Oren Peli's low-budget "haunted-house thriller" Paranormal Activity is drawing lots of comparisons to 1999's The Blair Witch Project, said Owen Gleiberman in Entertainment Weekly, but there's a key difference. Although Peli's film was "shot for $11,000" and "made very much in the peekaboo-vérité spirit of Blair Witch" (watch the trailer), in that movie, "you never really did get to see very much, but in Paranormal Activity (watch the trailer) you do"—and it's "freaky and terrifying."
Paranormal Activity has "the power to scare you with the sound of a creaking door," said Ben Kenigsberg in Time Out New York, and the film "makes a virtue of simplicity." But it also "lacks the conceptual elegance of its obvious precursor, The Blair Witch Project," and "often has the feel of a film-school exercise in which the object is to wring maximum suspense from rudimentary tools."
Well, at least in terms of marketing, said John Horn in the Los Angeles Times, the similarities between the films "are striking." Positive word-of-mouth buzz about the "micro-budget spectral thriller" Blair Witch Project "spread quickly via the Internet, early nationwide college-town screenings," and "a slowly expanding theatrical release." That model "made The Blair Witch Project a cultural phenomenon and box-office blockbuster," and "it's a carefully crafted plan that Paramount Pictures is following nearly to the letter with Paranormal Activity."
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- How U.S. special forces are preparing for the worst-case scenario in North Korea
- Here's the schedule very successful people follow every day
- I hate Ayn Rand — but here's why my fellow conservatives love her
- Why you shouldn't eat dog. Not even once.
- What would a U.S.-Russia war look like?
- The danger of the Democrats' lack of desperation
- 7 grammar rules you really should pay attention to
- Hey, Paul Ryan's new poverty plan isn't completely terrible!
- How social conservatives became a minority in need of protection
- The biggest lesson Obama failed to learn from Bush
Subscribe to the Week