Paranormal Activity (2009)
Directed by Oren Peli
So it was inevitable that I would see Paranormal Activity as it's all the hype and rage of late. As a horror blogger, it would be shameful of me not see this. So the odd part is I did not see this during a midnight madness showing (though I did try to go to one) but on a lazy Sunday mid-afternoon show with a few sporadic jabronis and Joe and Joanna Moviegoer. It would have been cooler to see this with Geeks and The Core, but you have to make do with what you got right?
Another disclaimer before I review is I saw the Paramount cut with the Spielberg ending and not the original uncut movie. To get a feel of what was changed head over to The Horror Effect and B-Movie Becky can explain.
So what did the jaded viewer think?
Paranormal Activity is a very creepy and scary movie that follows the shaky cam/found footage formula to a tee. It doesn't live up to the hype, but it does get very close. The movie relies on ingrained fear of the unknown and tosses some sound effects, shadow and bizarre creepiness and an ending that people won't forget.
As I mentioned before, The Paranormal Activity Effect will be echoed by all the major studios. It's a testament to what a $15,000 dollar budget, one week shoot and no name actors can accomplish. You think The Blair Witch Project can only happen once in a lifetime, but 10 years later, it's happened again in the full internet age to boot. Wow. What a fuckin accomplishment.
Indie horror is still alive and for once the big studios took advantage instead of relegating good horror (like Trick R Treat) to Best Buy DVD shelves.
Paranormal Activity is genuinely an anomaly within the horror genre, blasting through the clutter of zombies, vampires and monsters. Unseen demon spookiness is a lost art form and I am glad PA brings it back in a very clever way.
So on to a breakdown review.
After a young, middle class couple moves into what seems like a typical suburban 'starter' tract house, they become increasingly disturbed by a presence that may or may not be somehow demonic but is certainly most active in the middle of the night. Especially when they sleep. Or try to.
As I watched this flick, the Blair Witch comparisons are inevitable. But more so, I was drawn to compare this to another POV/found footage/shaky cam film that came out recently called Evil Things (full review here). They both are similar in following the formula BWP invented. The only difference is one is now a cult phenomenon and the other is nowhere on anybody's horror radar.
But let's get to the breakdown by seeing how Paranormal Activity worked the BWP formula to perfection.
- The camera "person" films everything
- His friends who become part of the video
- Something sinister starts to scare them
- The film ends with "the final shot" that gets the audience shocked
The camera "person" films everything
Micah and Katie both work the camera so we can get at least 99 minutes of footage. Though the motives are better explained as to why Micah is taping everything. With the paranormal shit having happened before the movie starts, there is justification that Micah wants to be a ghost hunter himself and record everything. Both Micah and Katie give strong performances and come out as very "real" in their ad-libbed and emotional diatribes. They seem to be a natural couple, not Hollywood 20-something actor clones. Katie has that Pam Beasley Office look while Micah comes off as a fantasy football/geek personality.
Katie's persona as a haunted life long victim of this demon comes off as very sincere and you feel for her. But to me, the best reality show character motif comes from Micah who plays the arrogant, SOB boyfriend to a tee. It's a twist within this genre. Usually the characters play off scared, than fuckin totally frightened. But Micah goes all tough guy, calling out the entities that have invaded his home and his girlfriend. His elaborate "traps" to capture evidence is a clever cat and mouse game between him and Demon X. I liked the fact he was brave enough to challenge and though many hated this in Micah, I loved his alpha male -ism.
His friends who become part of the video
Only 2 other characters show up and become part of the footage. The Psychic whose scared shitless and Katie's friend. Can you believe this movie had only 4 people on film?
Something sinister starts to scare them
I'm not going to go over each of the "Night" scenes but some more than others were effective. The daytime scenes are filled with humor, concern and infighting while the meat and potatoes of the movie are the night scenes. It's the tripod camera footage that we all were waiting to see. Katie's eternal standing, Ouija board and the other WTF scene around #13 or so (not sure) worked the best. The others (keys, light switching) seem to be unscary. But it's the buildup that counts as you the paranormal activity goes from low to medium than to mega high. It's a slowburn and by the ending, it's raining hellfire.
The film ends with "the final shot" that gets the audience shocked
The Spielberg ending is a decent way to end it though if you read the original ending, it also seems more realistic and probably worked effectively as well. You tell me. If you saw the original ending vs the Spielberg ending, which one was better?
Paranormal Activity probably wouldn't have worked if say it was released in July. But in October, with Halloween in the air it's just the awesome piece of candy amongst all the crappy candy corn in your bag of horror treats. It is very scary, to tweens and jabronis probably 100x scary but to the Core and the Geeks, we look at it a little differently. Insano Steve said a few times, why don't they turn on all the lights? Whats with this camera light as the only light source?!?! I agree. We all have gripes with the logic but it wouldn't be a horror movie if they turned on all the lights, right? Also, the daytime "scares" broke the mold which gave me a happy.
Because of many of these happy thoughts, Paranormal Activity works. It works as a faux documentary/POV film, it works as a scary and creepy film and it works as one of the best horror films of 2009.
The second to last scene
The Jaded Viewer's Final Prognosis
Here's hoping the DVD has both endings. I am very curious to see what was cut and what was added. You're not going to see a better movie this October (other than probably Zombieland).
Regardless of my review, you're going to see this movie because the hype has gotten so farfetched, it's at ludicrous speed. All I can say is bring down your expectations and go in with having your fear jolted a few times.
Paranormal Activity will probably end up on my Top 10 Horror Films of 2009 as well as many within the horror-blogosphere. As you all know, those lists are one of the prime indicators you've made it within the horror-sphere. See it in the theater in a packed room and let the mass fear hysteria begin.
Check out the trailer.
jaded viewer related linkage:
The Paranormal Activity Effect
Evil Things (Review)
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