Thursday, October 15, 2009
Paranormal Activity (2009)
So, I finally got to see the movie everyone’s been talking about, Paranormal Activity. I saw it in a packed theater Wednesday night and tried to go in as unbiased as possible. I had just seen the previews and stayed away from reading many reviews. Now, I realize that the hype for the film is HUGE, but I tried to approach it with little or no expectations, which, by the way, is hard to do when it’s proclaimed one of the “scariest movies of all time”!
Now, I realize I might be beaten with sticks over this statement since everyone out there seems to be raving about Paranormal Activity, but at the end of the night I was disappointed. I enjoyed it, yes, but I didn’t love it and certainly didn’t think it was that scary. And I had so wanted to be scared…
The movie starts with no credits and no intro, just a title card thanking the families of Micah Sloat and Katie Featherston and the San Diego Police Department before jumping into the “found” home footage of the couple. It opens on Micah (Micah Sloat) playing around with his new video camera before his wife Katie (Katie Featherston) gets home. When she gets there, he tells her that they can finally document all the paranormal activity that has started occurring, like weird noises, lights flickering, whispering, scratching and thumping.
Katie seems hesitant to talk about the haunting, and confesses it has been happening since she was eight years old and that the entity follows her whenever she moves. Micah doesn’t take the situation too seriously, but is determined to capture some paranormal activity on their camera. He films everything and even sets the camera on a tripod when they sleep.
Sure enough, unexplainable things begin happening and soon this paranormal activity just gets worse.
Paranormal Activity is the kind of film I would recommend for the casual horror viewer. You know, the type who sees an occasional horror film or two in the theater but isn’t a hardcore fanatic like most of us. Not used to the usual horror tricks, the casual horror viewer will definitely be freaked out by this film. I heard one such viewer say behind us in the theater, “Why is this film so scary?” Well, that’s easy…it’s because it preys on your fear of the unknown and wisely keeps the entity unseen. I really enjoyed the subtle approach Paranormal Activity took in the scare department – it really is the unseen and unknown that’s freaky! And yet, I didn’t get adequately scared during the film’s duration. A bit unnerved and in awe during certain parts, but not that heart-pounding fear that I was hoping for.
Now, perhaps I didn’t get scared because of the repetitive narrative structure of the film. It always starts with the couple filming themselves during the day, then at night while they sleep and something freaky would happen (subtly at first, but escalating to become more intense), then discussing it in the morning and at night it starts all over again. The pacing is a little on the slow side, too, which left me checking the time while watching the movie. Any suspense that had been building would be lost during the slowly paced scenes. Plus, skeptical Micah would throw in lots of humorous lines (surprisingly, this movie is really funny!) that would dissipate any tension that had started to build. I really wish more “oh-shit” moments had been thrown in – like certain ones including an old picture in the attic and a Ouija board.
Despite the repetitive nature of the film, I did like the actual story and the direction it took (this isn’t your typical haunting!). I don’t want to give anything away, so I won’t way much more, but I will say that there were several instances (the footprints, the standing by the bed) that were effectively creepy. Plus, the whole explanation of what was going on and the ending was pretty damn near perfect. Again, I just wish there had been more of those eerie instances in the film.
As for the rest of the film – the acting, the direction, etc. – it was all fantastic. The two leads did an amazing job portraying a couple and their interactions with each other were completely natural. Also, the direction, by Oren Peli, was amazing. I’m not sure if he actually gave the camera to the actors and said “Go with it” or if they had more stringent blocking to follow, but whatever he did worked. The home video footage looked incredibly authentic and all the different angles looked like they had been shot by the one camera. Perfectly brilliant way to shoot a paranormal movie!
So, as you can probably tell, I’m torn on Paranormal Activity. There are some things I loved about it (the story, the acting, the direction and some of the creepy bits) but some things just didn’t work for me (the repetitive editing, not enough scares). I really wish the hype around the flick hadn’t been so huge, because honestly, even though I tried to go in with no expectations, the hype got to me and I expected to see something that was gonna scare my skirt off. Disappointingly, my skirt stayed firmly on.
However, if you do plan on seeing this movie, do it in a theater full of people! This is a surefire way to get the most bang out of your buck, because the reactions from some people in the crowd are priceless! And since I didn’t find it exactly scary on the big screen, there is no way in Hell that this will be scary on the small screen. This film is one that MUST be seen on the big screen to do it any justice.
Paranormal Activity is enjoyable, but you won’t soil your undies over it. It’s no Blair Witch but it still makes for a fun movie-watching experience. Just don’t believe the hype!
Buy it on Amazon!