Monday, November 02, 2009

Bump in the night

(Probable Paranormal Activity spoilers ahead)

After fits and starts that saw us postponing our first attempt, my buddy Matt and I finally managed to see this fall's must-see scary movie, Paranormal Activity. I have to admit that from the moment I heard about it, I wanted to see it, and I knew that Heidi would have no part of it. However, as the movie gathered steam and transformed into an unstoppable internet juggernaut, I became more and more skeptical about it. Did I really want to see it? Was this movie more hype than actual substance? Would I even be scared?

The answers to each of these questions, oddly enough, is yes and no. For those who have somehow kept themselves out of the loop, this is another faux documentary style horror film consisting of "found footage" in which a young couple, Kate & Micah, find themselves plagued by a demonic presence - one that seems to have followed Kate through most of her life. Micah buys a video camera all in an attempt to capture whatever-it-is on tape. All this really succeeds in doing is seriously pissing it off.

What I found surprising about the movie is how really not scary it was - it didn't deliver a genuine honest-to-God scare until the final five minutes. Instead of being out-and-out scary, it settled for being creepy, which was actually a smart move. With a budget of $11,000, it was clear they were going to have to go the Jaws route - the less seen, the better. In this day and age of being able to put anything on the screen (which we saw in spades before the movie during the trailer for 2012), I admire the fact that you never actually see what's stalking Kate & Micah. Instead, it's inferred, alluded to - so much so that you start to doubt your own eyes. This is a movie that somehow manages to make something as innocuous as the turning on and off of lights certifiably creepy. It shouldn't be, but yet, you can't help but be creeped out by it.

I didn't really buy the whole "found footage" concept of the movie. What we saw on the screen was far too edited to be raw video. I felt that the footage from The Blair Witch Project felt more authentic, like it could have actually been found in the woods. Also, let it be said here and now that Micah was pretty insufferable. First it was his name - not pronounced "my-kah" but instead "mee-ka" which had me thinking he was going to break out into "Grace Kelly" at any moment. He was also horribly insensitive to Kate - it's a wonder he ever got laid, although it certainly wasn't for lack of trying on his part. Additionally, he was too-stupid-to-live for bringing the Ouija board in even after he had been cautioned not to attempt to communicate with the demon. But God help me if that Ouija board scene wasn't one of the creepiest in the movie.

I am hardcore when it comes to horror films - it takes a lot to truly scare me. I think the last movie that really scared me was probably The Grudge. Laugh if you will, but I had to turn the lights on when I was watching that one. As I mentioned before, Paranormal Activity did not scare me so much as it intrigued me. The ending packed a wallop that I wasn't entirely expecting, but even that scare has dissipated in the couple of hours since I got home.

It was worth probably half of what we paid for it - as Matt said, it would have been a better dollar theater movie. But you live and learn - unless you're the stupid person behind us who thought she was watching an ACTUAL documentary. At the end of the movie, she says, "I want to know RIGHT NOW if that's a true story or not." Matt and I didn't have the heart to shatter her illusion.

(A word of caution: the use of shaky cam in this movie has the potential to turn even the strongest stomach. I made it all the way through Quarantine without feeling sick, but this one even got to me after a while.)

4 comments:

Thomas Kingsley Troupe said...

I think this movie suffers from being over-hyped, for sure. I think I was fortunate enough to go in knowing only that they had an $11,000 budget. I was pulled in, hook-line-sinker. I found myself studying every frame of the movie like it was the JFK asaasination tape. I don't know. I never shouted out or anything, but some of the stuff just eeked me out. I'm big on 'ghosty' types of movies, more-so than gore for gore's sake, so it sort of his home. I also couldn't help but think it was pretty genius what they were able to pull of with such a small budget. Also, I thought Katie was fantastic. I do think the ending suffered from the 'Spielberg' treatment it got a little bit. The original ending (which I've read)is way darker and much more gut-wrenching. Anxious to see it on DVD.

Dan said...

I read a lot about the original ending last night, and I wonder if we wouldn't have felt let down had that been how it ended. Yeah, that ending did have a bit of a "Hollywood ending" to it, but it was also the first real jolt-you-out-of-your-seat scare of the whole movie. I think that had I not had that experience, I would have been disappointed.

I did not expect the movie to go the route of demonic possession, although in hindsight, I should have seen it coming.

Matt said...

Good recap. When I got home and told Anne about it, I realized that I enjoyed it more than I thought. I'm not one that's creeped out by "demons"...but I thought the movie had a few fairly effective spooky moments.

And, as you mentioned Dan, it was seriously improved by the woman behind us who thought it was real.

Dan said...

Matt, you're right. I did enjoy it more than I initially thought I did as well. I tried not to let the hype and "this is the scariest movie EVER!" nonsense color my experience. I was expecting more real scares, but as I said, I'll settle for the creepy which this movie did very well.

I wonder if it'll benefit from a rewatch on DVD? I will say that it put me in the mood to rewatch Blair Witch.