The Alllusion: Intelligent Machines, Ethical Turns, and Oren Peli’s Paranormal Activity
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In Oren Peli’s Paranormal Activity (2007), an independent film shot on a digital camera with funding of only $15,000, a demon invisibly stalks and torments Micah (Micah Sloat) and Katie (Katie Featherston), a 20-something couple sharing a two-story San Diego tract house. In the film’s opening scene, Micah, who regards these visitations with skepticism, if not utter disbelief, meets Katie at the front door, exclaiming, “Kiss the camera!” He uses this digital camcorder to similarly stalk, film, and interrogate Katie about the entity in the daytime, while mounting it on a tripod as they sleep so as to capture its movements at night. In spite of the evidence the camera records— animalistic snarls, sheets moving on their own, an uncharacteristically somnambulant Katie standing watch over Micah for much of the night—Micah refuses to take the demon’s existence seriously. He tempts it with a Ouija board; mockingly dismisses the recommendation of spiritualist Dr. Fredrichs (Mark Fredrichs) that they immediately contact a demonologist; and tosses a crucifix into the fireplace, treating it as a talismanic cause or symptom of Katie’s deteriorating mental condition. Ultimately, the demon takes control over Katie; in the film’s climactic scene, it confronts Micah off-camera downstairs, and after a few suspenseful moments, throws what seems Micah’s corpse at the tripod, tipping the camcorder to one side on to the floor.