Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Paranormal Activity

I feel really bad that I missed Paranormal Activity in theaters.

It was the one movie that I really should have made the effort to see. All the ads made this film look like the second coming of Leatherface. Remember these ads?


Anyway, the people who know me in real life were dying to find out my opinion on it. Unfortunately I missed it in theaters. Partially it was because I was a little intimidated by its supposed intensity, but mostly it was because I could never get the money and the time together. I'm sad I missed it in the theater because I would love to have seen it done properly. As it stands, I watched a DVD of it while on three different types of medication for an epic ear infection, which made the whole thing extra-surreal.

It's also making writing this review a challenge.


Is Paranormal Activity good? Depends on the audience. Kids who expect horror to be nothing but gore and jump-spike scares are gonna feel let down by this one. I liked it. It reminded me of how little you actually need to tell a scary story. The movie works just on sound and suggestion, on strong performances and a slow escalation of terror. Much like The Blair Witch Project, it's a movie that keeps a claustrophobic focus on the leads. In both movies, as shit begins to unravel, I really came to dread nightfall and the terrible escalation of the demon's assault. If that's your cuppa tea, go check it out. Final Girl's reviews are here and here, with a less-gushing one by Flick Filosopher.

The other thing I took away from the movie is the characterization of Micah and Katie, the doomed couple who find their suburban San Diego home under siege. Micah is one of those take-charge alpha male idiots who sees the supernatural siege as something he treat like a home-improvement project. He constantly shines on and ignores poor haunted Katie and refuses to accept help or treat the threat with any degree of caution or respect. He's basically the pushy jerk in every slasher film that dies the most horribly, only fleshed out and broadened into a real character. Our sympathy really lies with poor Katie, torn between a jerky boyfriend and a menacing spirit. Perhaps she courts her doom by not being assertive enough, but they're both people I can believe in. That's the kind of stuff I like: characters that exist as something other than knife-bait.

Go check it out, as it's probably one of the most important American horror films of the last few years. While you're at it, wish me a speedy recovery from this miserable ear infection. Also, for the record, I liked the theatrical ending more than the alternate DVD ending.


Penh said...

Don't feel too bad about missing it in the theater, although watching it while doped out of your head isn't the best approach. In the theater where I saw it, the front rows were having some kind of shrieking contest, launching into a barrage of ear-piercing screams every time they thought they were supposed to be scared. They were often mistaken.

Creature said...

You and me, Penh, we seek this shit out. Our tolerance level is much higher than John and Janey Civilian. I can't tell you how many times I've gone to a theater, laughed off some hammy jump scare, and been genuinely surprised people fell for it. I think I need to continuously remind myself that when people say "scariest movie of all time" they're measuring by a very different standard.

el said...

I'm only a few years behind in this comment, but I thought it was terrifying, and I've been drug to some pretty sad "scary" movies. I think the theater made all the difference. The actors made it believable and when I went home, to my house, where I live alone, I was torn between staying up the rest of the night and risk awareness at 3am or going to sleep. I forced myself into sleep, but only with the light on...

Scott A. Johnson said...

Yeah, seeing it in a theatre with a bunch of jumpy people did make a difference for me. It was easy to get caught up in the "group hysteria" of it. By the same token, I saw it a second time in a theater where people laughed at the same scenes, and it made the movie seem laughable.

Also, which "alternate ending" did you see? There were a few of them. One where the police shoot Katie, and one where she cuts her own throat with a chef's knife.

Creature said...

I'm generally of the mind that you should only watch horror movies in one of two ways: either in a big movie theater where you can't text and surf the internet through the film, or alone in a dark apartment. I saw the one where Kadie cut her throat. I didn't even know there was one where the cops took her down.

A said...

I like how you say the audience makes a difference in whether one will say that the movie is good or not. That's an excellent point. The person's perspective on what is "good" horror, would definitely make them love or hate the film.