By Eugene Novikov, reprinted from the Telluride Film Festival, 9/11/09
Once the novelty of the first-person, subjective-camera horror flicks (Blair Witch, Cloverfield, Quarantine, Diary of the Dead, etc,) wore off for me, I started having logistical issues with the genre. After a while, you can't help but start paying attention to the inherent implausibility of the characters as persistent, skilled camerapeople who keep rolling when any reasonable person would have ditched the damn camcorder long ago. That may seem insanely picky, but it's what happens when the same flawed device is foisted on me time and again.
I had some of the same objections to Paranormal Activity, which screened at Telluride in advance of a planned release by Paramount, and nearly two years after it first premiered at Screamfest in Los Angeles. But the movie is so skillful in every other way -- and so much fun -- that I essentially told myself to shut the hell up. Oren Peli's feature debut, the story of a woman haunted by a relentless and malevolent demon, is a terrific companion piece to this year's Drag Me to Hell, with Sam Raimi's old-fashioned horror chops replaced by the masterful execution of a conceptual gimmick.