It’s something rarely seen these days, especially in horror movies: the long take, the stationary camera shot that just watches events unfold without rapidly cutting to something else, then to something else, then to something else, all to the tune of shrieking violins. It’s the simplest thing ever. It’s what the camera does if you’re too lazy to touch it after pressing record. It’s also what makes this movie so effective. When weird things start happening to Katie and Micah after they move into their new home, Micah decides to set up a camera in their bedroom and see if he can film some mischief while the two sleep. He does. Director Oren Peli takes advantage of his low-budget limitations; the sounds of slamming doors and pounding footsteps offscreen and the tension caused by a static shot (our eyes move over it, and we wonder, “Where is the scary stuff going to happen?”) are cheap effects that prove more valuable than the most advanced special effects. But above all, it’s the sight of two people at rest and the idea of sleep as a state of vulnerability when almost anything could happen to us that will keep you up at night.
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