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When it comes to hyped-up movies, I run a mile. I never saw The Blair Witch Project on the big-screen because I just didn’t want to ‘follow the crowd’. When I finally caught it on DVD, it was exactly as I thought – effectively scary, but certainly not the masterpiece of fright that it was sold as.

And so we come to Paranormal Activity – another low budget, indi scare-fest that, like Blair Witch, got a big distributor to guarantee it a release at the cinema and on DVD/Blu-ray.

Just in case you’ve been living in a cave, Paranormal Activity is a home-movie-styled chiller following everyday couple Micah and Katie, who decide to record the strange goings-on in their suburban San Diego home after Katie claims she has been haunted since she was a young child.

Setting up a camera up in their bedroom, Micah records each night in its entirety. What we see is the edited footage, comprising unexplained scratching sounds, loud crashes, doors opening and closing by themselves, lights going on and off… Truly unnerving stuff.

First-time director Oren Peli cranks up the tension as each night produces a new scare, slowly building up to its frightening, tragic climax.

Newcomers Micah Sloat and Katie Featherston play their roles with utter conviction, while the production values and special effects are subtle and effective, in keeping with its home video style.

While the nighttime events are well executed, I found myself ripping holes out of the script. I questioned the couple’s decision to keep on filming without taking stock of a psychic’s warning about demonic possession; wondered why Micah had no family or friends to talk to about the strange happenings; and why – when the couple finally got real evidence of paranormal activity (footprints appearing on the floor) – they didn’t call in the Most Haunted team?

Effectively unnerving, but really one to watch only once.

Let’s hope the sequel is not as bad as Blair Witch’s Book of Shadows.

Out on DVD and Blu-Ray

[swf]http://uk.player.filmtrailer.com/v3.1/&mid=3162&channel_user_id=441100180-1&repeat=1&volume=0[/swf]

To activate the sound in the trailer: hold your cursor over the screen to reveal the control panel and click on the volume control in the bottom right-hand corner.