Paranormal Activity.

Monday, October 26th 09 at 1:50 pm 2 comments

Horror movies are a dime a dozen and it’s getting harder and harder to find good ones. I guess there are only so many different angles the formula can be looked at. So unique and clever horror is even harder to find. I think the last smart horror (and truly it can’t even really be called a “horror” film, certainly not in the classic sense) that I saw was the remake of the German film Funny Games. There’s been a lot of other great ones scattered after that: Cloverfield gave us monsters, Last House on the Left was a brilliant remake of a Wes Craven masterpiece, Trick ‘r Treat wove together four stories from one Halloween night in the vein of Tales From the Crypt, even The Strangers was pretty scary despite it’s slightly predictable path. But then on the other hand, there have been some really, really terrible offerings. Mirrors had a few decent scares but in the end was the same as everything else, Friday the 13th was boring and the worst remake ever and My Bloody Valentine – though it had a great gore factor – was entirely obvious and dumb. When we tried to watch The Unborn and Drag Me to Hell, we turned them both off thirty minutes in because every moment had been completely unbearable. But every now and then, one comes along that really gets it right.

I remember when The Blair Witch Project came out ten years ago. I was one of like, a dozen people in the theatre and I was petrified the entire time. What was so brilliant about Blair Witch was the fact that it was presented as a very real thing. It looked real, it sounded real and more than anything, it felt one hundred percent genuine. I really believed that it was true and was, honestly, disappointed when I saw Heather Donahue in People Magazine a couple months later talking about the success of the movie. Even ten years on, when everyone knows that it was fiction and there are a lot of other movies following the same “found-footage” formula; it remains a brilliantly acted and truly frightening movie. Both Cloverfield and Quarantine have done “found-footage” really well and were successful at being scary and great. But Paranormal Activity tops them both.
Here be spoilers, be warned.


Everyone has heard the reviews about Paranormal Activity: “It was the scariest thing I’ve ever seen,” “I’m never sleeping again,” and so forth. And while it hasn’t hampered by ability to fall into gentle slumbers, it has definitely stuck with me. For those who like, never watch television or read ONTD; Paranormal Activity is about a couple who have decided to attempt to get on film proof of a haunting in their home. After we meet this typical and slightly adorable couple, we learn that Katie has been experiencing this haunting since she was eight years old. Manifesting itself in bumps in the night, shadowy figures at the foot of her bed, and hot breath on her neck. The film starts off slowly and only slightly spooky, but if you’ve got the patience to wait it out, it really starts to pay off after about the first forty minutes. With the help of a psychic, Micah and Katie discover that their haunt is a demon and not a ghost. Once they learn this, the demon really kicks up its efforts at scaring them. While they’re sleeping, the time-stamp on the film fast forwards and if you watch for it to resume normal speed, you’ll be ready for a loud and frightening noise or Katie doing something really bizarre. There’s no fun in that really, but in truth, some of the things that happen you really can’t prepare yourself for.

Some of the scares literally grab you by the chest and make you hold your breath until it’s over and there are great moments of weighted anticipation. Initially, I found it kind of unnecessary for Micah to crawl into the attic to find an old, singed picture of Katie. But that was until I thought about it a little longer and realised that that picture meant that the demon took the picture from the house fire that happened when she was younger, and actually carried it over the past fifteen years. I had a couple minor gripes about it though. I found the bit near the end where they found stories of a similar occurrence a bit unnecessary. I guess they had to make what happened with the Ouija Board relevant, but in my opinion, they should have just had the Ouija Board go crazy instead of actually spelling out something. It took away a little bit from the spooky quality for me.  Also minor was the fact that whenever the demon was about to do something, there was a subtle but very ominous layer of sound that I really wish had been left out. My biggest grievance (and really the only one that is actually worth mentioning) happened right at the end. Now, don’t get me wrong. The ending was fucking scary. But in the last moments, when Katie looks up at the camera, and then lunges for it, her face changes. I guess they kind of had to give it some effect so it was (even more) apparent that she’d been possessed by the demon. But everything throughout the whole movie looked and felt so real. And I felt that adding that bit of stretch, that bit of ghoulishness, cheapened it ever so slightly that at the most crucial of moments for the movie, it almost took you out of the experience of it being “real.”

What makes a scary movie good for me is when it sticks with you afterwards. While Paranormal Activity was frightening in the moment, it’s when you’re home alone or getting into bed that it really gets scary. That’s why people are saying that it takes them hours to fall asleep after they see it, because it taps into a great fear that most people probably have. That something will happen to them while they’re asleep. While you’re in your home, at your most unguarded and vulnerable; something that you cannot see and do not understand is coming for you. And while, like I said, it hasn’t affected my ability to sleep – when I’m alone at work all night in that big, quiet house… I definitely do hear every single sound. And it definitely makes me squirm.


Entry filed under: Opinions. Tags: , , .

Feathuhs of an arrow. President Obama signs The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act.

2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. nibbyboi  |  Sunday, January 3rd 10 at 2:06 am

    i honestly didnt like the film the whole time i was expecting for something crazy to happen but nothing really happen the only part that made me jump was the end when she jumps towards the camera my sister couldnt sleep for like 2 weeks i didnt think it was that bad

  • 2. Fregiasia  |  Monday, January 4th 10 at 3:40 am

    Stunning, I didn’t know about that up to now. Thanks!!


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