Saturday, January 16, 2010

Paranormal Activity

Occasionally, I get very pessimistic, usually around the times when I feel the horror genre in general is loosing steam. Then, along comes a movie called Paranormal Activity, and things take a turn towards the awesome. Yes, there, I said it, I love Paranormal Activity. If my opinion on the film was the only thing that matters to you, you can now click "back" in your browser and go on your merry way. Some spoilers, but nothing major.

I must admit, I did not have high hopes for Paranormal Activity, at all. You see, the trailer was surprisingly unhelpful, and the synopsis didn't really tickle me. Guy and a girl, something haunts their asses, guy tries to document it... it gets worse. As far as I could see, it was a movie about a haunting, shot in a semi Blair Witch-kind of style and it apparently frightened a cinema full of moviegoers. Yay. Well, I must admit, as far as marketing goes, just showing a crowd's reaction to the movie is actually kind of a smooth move, sure, it doesn't beat the "this was real OMG"-approach to Blair Witch, but I doubt anyone is stupid enough to try retreading that particular ground anytime soon. Oh Wait. Anyway, it wasn't until I heard one particular spoiler, together with a rather glowing review, that I got interested. You see, it's not the house that's haunted, it's the female main character.

Granted, the thought of person-centered haunts isn't all that new either. For example, I think there was a Supernatural-episode themed around such, but it's still not something we see all that often. Also, it solves a rather old problem with haunting stories, since 99% of these rely on the main characters all being massive morons, staying in a house that you have to realize, even if you're massively genre blind, is full of some seriously fucked up mojo. Also, it raises a very interesting question: What does this entity want with its designated victim? This question and many promises of this film being seriously creepy made me check it out despite my initial lackluster enthusiasm, and I'm glad I did.

Well, as I mentioned, this film is done as a sort of Blair Witch Project-thing, albeit with a lot less wavy camera. You'll notice my favorite First Person Movies, Rec and Paranormal Activity, both have less frantic wavy camerawork, whereas FPMs I'm not that crazy about, for example Cloverfield has... well... more. A lot of Paranormal Activity's scares happen with the camera mounted on a tripod during the night sequences, so even when stuff gets crazy, we get a good overview. I think one of this movie's biggest strengths is that it keeps it simple. A lot of times, we just get the sound of approaching steps or something small being moved, from a sheet to a door, it makes you wonder, is whatever's doing the haunting just warming up, or is it for some reason not strong enough to do more? Well, either way, we do get some heavier stuff later on, but it's still fairly subdued, leaving us with a slow burn of fear, if you will.

In particular, one scare that doesn't feel that bad on paper, but was wickedly effective in the movie, was that the female character got out of bed during one of these nightly filmings, stood still for four hours, which we thankfully fast-forwarded through, before looming over her sleeping beau. I also noticed that the movie had managed to make its audience fear video not being fast-forwarded. You see, it shows nights as recorded by the man's camera, and when nothing happens, it fast-forwards, but about a minute or so before creepyness ensues, it goes back to 1x speed, and thus, in the cinema, I could hear clearly scared whispers of "it's going slow, oh god it's going slow." It was, in short, delicious. It's that kind of reaction to something that's not in itself scary that I hope to one day achieve.

As for acting, it's not going to win any Oscars for that, but the two main characters do their jobs good enough, and their fear feels fairly genuine, so I'm guessing I can't really complain too much. I've been thinking about the characters in general, and although I didn't exactly wish bad upon him, I realize the husband came off as a bit of an idiot. I mean, yeah, he doesn't trust the spirit medium the wife ends calling in, which is forgivable pretty much everywhere else than in a horror movie, but when he, contrary to prior agreement with his better half, gets an Ouija-board and tries to communicate with the spiritual being, well... not only does it sound like a very bad idea, but it's also kind of jerkish. Still, the characters are sympathic enough that you doesn't want the horrible things that happen to them to actually happen to them, so in that respect, he's still better than your average horror movie character, jerkish tendencies notwithstanding.

So, yeah, check out Paranormal Activity if you have the nerves and is in the mood for something different. Check by next week, when I will write about something... out of the ordinary.

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