Movie: "Paranormal Activity"
Directed by: Oren Peli
Writing credits: Oren Peli
Plot: A foolish couple moves into a suburban home and soon discover they are haunted by a demonic presence, and they make stupid decision after stupid decision until things go very badly for them.
Review: I'd heard nothing but raving about Paranormal Activity and how utterly terrifying it was, so when it came around to the local $2 theater at the end of last year I decided to check it out. And I have to say, if I had spent more than that I would have felt ripped off, as I found it highly disappointing. It's not that the movie was bad exactly, it's just that it wasn't particularly good.
The premise sounds fantastic: another "found footage" film where a couple haunted by a mysterious force decides to film their bedroom while they sleep. It sounds scary enough--after all, when are we more vulnerable than when we're asleep? It's the kind of thing that, if presented properly, would keep anybody up at night. The execution however was a bit lacking, as the claims I'd read saying the film avoided horror cliches were blatantly false. It's basically The Blair Witch Project all over again, but the thing is, Blair Witch did it better, mostly in part to a brilliant marketing campaign that was actually better than the movie itself.
The inherent problem with the setup of this film is that it shows us various nights where Katie and Micah sleep in their bedroom, but the "found footage" only bothers to show nights where something creepy happens (whatever fictional person "found" the film and compiled it all together after the fact would have left out the irrelevant and uneventful nights, as is only natural). The problem with this is that the film telegraphs exactly when something scary is going to happen. "Okay, you think, we're settling in to watch 'Night # 13' and now I know that something fucked up is going to happen." So you're completely ready for every bit of it.
The creepiest moment in the film occurs early on, when Micah still doubts his fiancee Katie's claims that something is haunting her. Up to that point, there have been the occasional odd sounds, but nothing that couldn't be explained by natural creaking house noises. It's during one of the early nights after Micah has scoffed at the idea that it could be something supernatural that the two characters suddenly hear an otherworldly scream, followed by a loud slamming sound. At this point Micah reacts with true fear, and it's the audience's proper introduction to the phenomenon that up to that point Katie has only referred to. It's the scariest moment in the film, and the fact that it occurs within the first twenty minutes doesn't speak well for the remainder of the movie.
From this point on, despite being met with overwhelming evidence that there is something supernatural going on in their home, Micah adamantly and foolishly refuses to take it seriously, believing that the ability to defend his own home is a point of pride as a man, despite the fact that he can neither see nor touch his home's invader. Katie complains about how his stupid behavior (taunting the demon, calling it out, trying to communicate with it via ouija board) is endangering her, but she fails to truly put her foot down and make him stop. And Micah stubbornly and stupidly refuses to accept any aid from experts who deal with the supernatural, insisting that he has "a plan" (he must be a cylon).
The ending of the movie is the dumbest part, and where it truly lost me and damaged all that came before beyond repair. I don't want to spoil things by mentioning specifics, but I will say that the climax occurs off-camera, as the characters both end up downstairs in response to the events that are taking place. We hear a lot of terrible screaming and shouting, left only with our imaginations as to what just occurred. This I have no problem with at all. What I do have a problem with is the contrived shit that follows as an excuse to get the characters back upstairs and in front of the camera again. There is no reason for it aside from "oh yeah, we're making a movie", and the film ends with a completely pointless "lunge at the camera" moment which is probably my most hated cliche in all horror films. It was laughably stupid, and while most of the others in the theater were screaming, I was rolling my eyes at how ridiculous it was. I've read descriptions of two alternate endings that would have been much better than that lame shit, and I can easily come up with about half a dozen stronger ways to end the film as well. The ending we got felt like the sort of thing a twelve year old might come up with because they just didn't know how to end the story.
Drag Me to Hell is another film that came out in 2009 (this is the year that Paranormal Activity had wide theatrical release) that has a lot of parallels to this one (girl is being haunted by a demon, the characters are idiots), but it was much more enjoyable than this. By not being constrained by the "found footage" narrative style that only shows us the nights when crazy shit happens, the film actually has you on the edge of your seat a little more. And though it too is riddled with cliches, Raimi's film embraces them, rather than pretending to be above them but utilizing them anyway and simply hoping no one will notice. If you're going to see one demonic haunting movie from 2009, do yourself a favor and make it Drag Me to Hell instead of this one.
(Scored on a 0.5 - 5 pickles rating: 0.5 being the worst and 5 being the best)
This was the kind of movie you needed to watch at home alone.
Follow us on:
Want Your Ad Here?
Send us an email!