Day 52: Paranormal Activity (2007)


I love a good ghost story. You know those things that go bump in the night (well, those that aren’t your three-legged cat slinking towards her food dish)? Or those sounds you just can’t explain? Maybe you don’t want to peer into the mirror after dark for fear of what you may see looking back at you (No, I am not talking about your own reflection sans make-up)? I love all of those stories—predictable as they may be (what? The call was coming from inside the house?!). Usually, I like my ghost stories in the form of “true tales”–either told by someone I know about their experiences or reading about supposedly haunted places. I don’t know if it this geeky combination of history meets horror that peaks my interest, but I have a hard time passing up tales of the supernatural (and I could tell a tale or two myself…).

 

This love of ghost stories is reflected, quite often, in my movie preferences. Here I should note that I don’t necessarily like horror movies—seeing a bunch of blood, gore, and people slaughtered for no apparent reason (is, “he looked at me funny,” a reason?) isn’t always my cup of tea. I couldn’t get through Hostel or Saw, but I can sit through my own personal Ghost Hunters marathon with no problem. So, it was no surprise when I looked over my queue, saw that Paranormal Activity was now available on watch instantly, and pushed play. Say no more, good friend, it is done.

 

Paranormal Activity was actually The Blair Witch Project of its time. Shot in documentary style and with minimal cast, the filmmakers want the audience to feel like the events are real. The film follows Katie (Katie Featherston) and Micah (Micah Sloat) as they document the increasingly bizarre occurrences that plague them in their San Diego home. As the film progresses, the incidents become more frequent and more extreme. It ends with the main characters being chased by a ghost throughout the house. The “Benny Hill Show Theme” plays as the people open one door, the ghost opens another; they look at each other, and run through opposite doors. Oh damn, that was Scooby-Doo. What I should have said, is that would have been totally sweet if it ended like that. Well, you can’t win them all, I suppose.

 

On the plus side, this film is excellent at drawing things out –although I would argue this is detrimental as well. Very little happens in this film– but as an audience, we are on the edges of our seats waiting for something to happen. We analyze the footage to see if we can catch a glimpse of anything out of the ordinary; or strain our ears because we thought we heard a growling noise (or was that just the cat snoring?). Either way, the movie does a wonderful job at engaging its audience. The actors are actually quite believable. Most of the times, it doesn’t seem that they are acting(to me, at least)– it is very natural. For instance, Micah can be kind of a butthead. I mean, come on, the psychic said whatever you do, don’t use a Ouija board. So, naturally, what is Micah obsessed with doing? If you answered using a Ouija board, consider yourself smarter than at least one character in this film. But the formula works. It’s a scary movie, for Pete’s sake, the main characters have to be a little dense.

 

Also, the idea behind the film is rather clever. It cost very little to make– and in part, it is this low-production value that makes the film work. We don’t know what is going on outside the frame because the characters don’t. However, what makes it smart can also make it a bit frustrating. I totally hate the hand-held camera look. It makes me want to barf (do people still use that word?). I am so thankful I didn’t see this in the theater or I would have went Cloverfield on the person sitting next to me. In the beginning of the film, I felt like I was watching someone’s home movie due to the weird, random crap that was “being filmed.” I was over the whole novelty feel about five minutes in, and just wanted them to move on with the supernatural part of the film.

 

I guess the experience I had watching this movie is similar to those I had reading the Twilight series. Sure, I saw it to the end, and I kind of enjoyed it while I was doing it; but after I was done, I felt like not much really happened. Yeah, I had fun watching Paranormal Activity, but about 45 minutes in, I was ready for it to be over. This is, coincidentally, how long Ghost Hunters episodes usually are. Maybe I should just stick with Ghost Hunters and my team at TAPS.

 

Score: B-

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