The lights are on
Veteran Member - Level 12
So much hype went into this movie. At first nobody heard of it at all. Then after a certain trailer was released, they asked us to demand it to be shown in theaters, and it happened. Soon, more and more people were interested on something hyped up as "The scariest thing since the Exorcist" or hyped with a story such as "Steven Spielberg saw it and thought his copy was haunted" (Yes that actually happened). At first, everyone was loving it but as with everything that gets hyped up to the extreme, the backlash came up. It happened a little bit with The Dark Knight (With certain critics saying it's only famous because of Heath Ledger's death), it happened with the Blair Witch Project, and now, this. So the big question is this: Is super surprise hit Paranormal Activity worth the hype? Yes. And no.
I love "found footage" films. Many people think that the Blair Witch Project was the first one to start this concept, when it actually started with Cannibal Holocaust. Blair Witch merely just popularized it. I love the Blair Witch Project, it's one of my favorite films of all time, so I was expecting to love this movie.
Paranormal Activity is an equation of The Exorcist + Poltergeist + The Blair Witch Project = AWESOMENESS. Only four actors are shown on screen, only two of them are main characters, and only one of them is shown in literally every shot. Katie Featherson and Micah Sloat (Playing as...themselves) have just moved into their new San Diego home as boyfriend and girlfriend (Micah says they're "engaged to be engaged"). It is a perfectly pleasant house, has a pool in the backyard, some nice furniture, but at night, some noises can be heard. Micah thinks that there is some paranormal activity lurking around the house, but it only seems to happen while they're asleep. So he buys himself a fancy camera to use as a surveillance tool, so that they can wake up in the morning and see what they missed. Strange things happen such as a weird ringing noise, moving doors, and other such things. They call for a psychic guy or something and says that it is not a ghost, but a demon. The house is not haunted, but Katie is. And there is something about her past connected to this phenomena.
Paranormal Activity relies heavily on it's "found footage" setup. Without it, the film wouldn't be nearly as effective if it was filmed the traditional way. Many people in my school still think that what happened in the movie actually happened in real life (despite many interviews with the actors shown on Television). It's this setup that heightens the already tension-filled atmosphere. It is always about the anticipation, and NOT the actual event, and it is that such anticipation that brings out tension, and it is that tension that brings out true wringing suspense once the actual events start happening. The smallest things such as slamming doors and swinging lamps become instruments of terror.
Films like this, that rely on making it truly seem real, need, and I repeat, need good character development and acting. The character development is meh, but still does it's job well. What I do have a problem with though is the acting. Okay, not all the acting, but...lemme explain. Micah, is in the top 5 in my list of the biggest d-bags of 2009, up there with Kanye West. The psychic guy specifically informed the two that taunting the demon will only make matters worse, but of course, Micah doesn't take his words seriously. I can understand this happening once or twice, but even when things get from bad to worse, he still continues to douchify almost every scene that he's in. It's because of him that all of these bad things are happening to them, and although without his douchebaggery there'd be no scares, it's just stupid to know that they're all happening because of his unwillingness to just listen to the freaking expert. As if the character wasn't unlikeable enough, the acting for him isn't even all that good. However, on the brightside, we have Katie Featherson, who just flat-out dominates every frame. Now she is a believable and sympathetic character. Without her great performance and character, I would've not enjoyed this movie with that d-bag Micah.
The devil has given you a message, Micah. He can't stand your douchebaggery!
Either way though, the last 30 minutes are just gripping in every sense of the word. Whether you liked or hated this movie, you have to admit that there is more talent in this movie than almost every single one of Hollywood's cash-cows that have big budgets. And the beauty of it is that it costs merely a few thousand dollars. I thought Hollywood learned they can make money while making good and cheap horror movies with The Blair Witch Project, but they forgot. Hopefully, Paranormal Activity will remind them again. Especially since director Oren Peli is going to be making a new movie with a bigger budget called Area 51 with the same found-footage concept, and I have to say that the idea behind this movie sounds AWESOME!
Anyway, back to the climax. Just like the previously reviewed House of the Devil and Home Movie, the slow-build makes the climax all the more frightening, because we sympathize for our character (not characters, because I just wanted to shoot that freaking Micah) and because it's been able to convince many people that what's happening on screen actually happened (There are no real beginning or end credits BTW). Not only does it retain the moody atmospheric tension from before, it also features some relentless suspense, as the camera just merely sits there on the tripod, and it's like you're forced to watch all of the unexplained events happening to our characters. It involves the amazing idea of "minimalism". Sometimes, it's what you don't see that scares you the most, because not only does it make it more mysterious and enigmatic (Pun srsly intended), it lets your imagination create something far more sinster than anything that can be assembled on screen. That's the beauty of many "found-footage" films. Just like in most of those child-hood experiences where you'd start hearing scary noises in the night and you'd think it was a monster because it was left to your imagination, but it isn't scary anymore when your parent explain to you that it was only the air conditioning or the washing machine. The actual object isn't as scary as the noise it makes. As for the last 10 minutes...it left me and the entire theater breathless.
Which brings me into the next point: The right way to watch this movie. Although it is definitely fun to watch the movie with a crowded audience just to see their hilarious reactions (Some of the "macho" guys screamed like little girls lolz), this is a movie that's goal is to make you afraid to go to your own home. So imagine just renting it from Blockbuster, watching it in your own living room and/or bedroom, turning off all the lights, at night time. Talk about heightening the atmosphere.
Conclusion: Is it the scariest movie since The Exorcist? HA! Not even close! Is it the scariest movie of this decade? Well, compared to a lot of the other crap spewed from Hollywood this decade, it definitely ranks among my top 20 of the decade. Did it actually take talent to make? Oh hell yeah. And lastly: Is it worth the hype? If you watch it the right way, and make sure that you don't over-hype it to the extreme, it can be a fun, relentless roller-coaster ride. And even if you do watch it "the right way" and still don't enjoy it, well...to each his own. It's slow-building, but ultimately rewarding. So it gets a 4/5. I would rate it higher if it weren't for the overhyping and the constant douchebaggery of Micah, but it's still good--God damnit, Micah, I told you not to use the ouija board! Put it down...wait......what was that noise? Why did the door close on us? Oh dear God, some invisible force is dragging me away! GET IT OFF! GET IT OFF!! OH MAH GOD IT MADE MICAH GO INSIDE OUT! IT'S TEARING HIS INTESTINES APART!!! AAAAHHHHHH!!
*We interrupt this segment with a brief intermission*