Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Paranormal Activity

As you know, I don't really like reviewing most current movies I see in my blog. I think there are far better writers and reviewers out there that undertake the task of tackling the newest box office hits, and so I don't really need to do it. I prefer to write my occasional review on old or poorly known movies that people may enjoy knowing about.
Anyway, sometimes I feel like breaking the cycle and this is one of those cases. What caused it? The much hyped and talked about Paranormal Activity.

Like I already mentioned, this movie was super hyped. It reminded a lot of people of the Blair Witch Project, a comparison pushed even further by the hand-held camera style that most of the movie was shot on (although, in my opinion, the publicity for Blair Witch was a little more complex - the directors even created a documentary totally separated from the movie, created all these websites and basically bet a lot of resources into tricking people to believing the events they would eventually see on camera were real). But, to be honest, I disconnected from a lot of the hype. I'm not one to jump in bandwagons, and when I start hearing about a movie left and right I get really turned off to it most of the times. Especially when the movie gets branded with labels such as "scariest movie of all time", like this one was. It pretty much just makes me want to dismiss it as a bag of bullshit. I didn't even see the full trailer. Still, when the movie opened in theaters in Portugal and opinions started rolling in on twitter, I got curious again. A couple of people there mentioned how they thought the movie could be more effective if watched at home... and that, coupled with me being a little sick, led to me watching this movie at home, in the dark. I was pretty torn about it, because I knew the version I had featured a different ending from the current version, but curiosity just spoke louder, so I settled in with my boyfriend in the bedroom and we popped in Paranormal Activity.
I think most of you are probably familiar with the setup: Micah and Katie are a young couple who started living together a little while ago. They start experiencing an array of weird events in their house and, since Katie reveals that she has suffered paranormal experiences on and off since she was a kid , Micah decides to go out and get himself a camera to document whatever is happening in their house. He gets a full set up together in the bedroom, not just the camera but devices to capture EVP and all sorts of gadgets like that. What we see is what they got on camera over the course of about 3 weeks.

You guys know I love horror movies, and I watch all sorts, from every subgenre out there, old, new, doesn't matter: I watch them all, I watch a LOT of horror movies. Not that much scares me anymore. But Paranormal Activity managed to scare me. Maybe it's because I'm a little bit of a scaredy cat in real life, when it comes to weird noises around the house and stuff like that. That door creeking, those faint footsteps you can't really place, that bump you think you hear... all of that freaks me out. I mean, I'm not really a believer in paranormal things, but it freaks me out and I actually love to read books about it, or watch documentaries, whatever I can get. I guess I like being scared. Well, along with me, I think a lot of people share the same deep-rooted feelings of being alone, freaked out in their house by unidentified noises, and that's where I think Paranormal Activity comes in as effective. The things you will see will make you wonder , deep down, if it has ever happened to you but you just don't know about it because you didn't set up a camera in your bedroom to record it. That, and the unseen, are the biggest things playing in favor for this movie. It was effective for me, it might not be for other people but to me it was.
The movie develops pretty slowly. In the beginning you kind of think "Well, that's not really that scary", but things definitely take a turn for the worse and it becomes increasingly terrifying, in a very effective way. Katie becomes desperate and Micah becomes borderline idiotic, making bad decision after another. I almost wish his character wasn't as full-blown alpha-male as he was, but well. They were believable to me, they may not have been the best actors ever, but they mostly came across as a believable couple. Katie's friend, for example, didn't work well for me at all, and whenever she was on screen she kind of took me off the movie - fortunatelly she was only there for a short time.
The filming style worked very well for me. I know a lot of people have problems with the hand-held camera, but I honestly believe if this movie was made any other way it wouldn't have been as effective. There's not a lot of shaky cam because plenty of times the camera is set on a tripod, so you get a stable shot. And, when the characters are carrying the camera around the house, you're actually scared again by what could appear when the camera is swiping left to right, to the dark corners of the house. The camera didn't detract from the movie at all, in fact it contributed a lot to the feeling of reality of the movie. I can tell you that watching it with my boyfriend, in a set up pretty similar to that of the movie, in the dark, it almost felt voyeuristic, almost like we were really watching a lost home movie from a real couple. It made it all feel very palpable, very real. And very creepy.

You know those internet games that were pretty popular a few years back, where you were asked to focus on a photograph, or look for something, or listen to a song very attentively, just to stand there like a jackass for 30 seconds and then have something jump at you? That scared the shit out of you, didn't it. Yeah, it scared the shit out of me too. A lot of parts in this movie reminded me of that - especially the parts at night, in the bedroom. The director managed to create such tension, you're just there thinking "oh my god, something's going to happen right NOW", but then it's never a cheap jumpscare, like you'd expect. It's just continuing tension, and anxiety. You're bracing yourself for that scare, but then it's never what you think. It really gets on your nerves and you only imagine how those people can even sleep in that fucking room, I know I wouldn't be able to sleep. There is some fantastic, I mean fantastic creepy imagery here. Things so simple that you think for sure someone must have used this before - but no one did, and it works perfectly. I won't say what it is because I don't want to spoil it, you'll have to see it and try to guess what I mean.
There were a few things that I didn't like all that much. To everyone who's seen it, the "Diane" plot point and the way it's shown in the movie was overkill for me. That took me right out of the movie - up to that point everything felt pretty real to me, but that didn't look real to me and it made me think of another movie, which is not good, when you're reminded of a movie that is superior to the one you're watching. But that's probably all I can think of, off the top of my head. I've heard people mention pacing issues, which I can understand, but to me it worked perfectly, I wasn't bored for a second.
The movie ending I saw was the original one, not the Paramount/Spielberg cut, though I have now seen both endings. Both are good - but I don't know if it's because I saw it first or if it's geniunely better, but I lean towards prefering the original ending. They're both good, shocking and very bleak.
All in all, I really, really liked this movie. I don't know if it lives up to the hype, but it comes damn close and it sure deserves the recognition that it's getting. It's pretty remarkable that a movie made with only 11.000 dollars is getting a worldwide distribution, and I hope it continues succeeding at the box office, because it's probably one of the best horror films to have come out this year, or in the last 10 years for that matter. It IS scary. Watch it in the dark, try watching it alone, in your house, and see if it doesn't stick with you. You'll be wanting to sleep with the door closed. 4 out of 5 stars from me.


Chris said...

I got that movie in my PC since like 3 weeks ago. Tonight is the day i'm gonna watch it.

Thanks for the review!

Anonymous said...

oh man i watched it and gawd, shit scared me forever

Mário said...

Bah! tens medo de tudo!
and by the way, o filme mais assustador de sempre é o REC!
bah...movies with ghost sucks.
para os americanos é so terror podre desse genero, pessoas possuídas e espíritos, k seca.

well, é verdade, o post anterior k fizeste, nao consigo aceder.

Mário said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
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