Today’s blog will be hosted by Robert Kuang. If you’re into writing, TV, or movies, why are you not reading his blog?
It’s this time of the year, which means Halloween fans are clamoring for the latest horror sensation. It’s not hard to pinpoint which film is receiving the throne this year. If you haven’t heard of Paranormal Activity, it’s because you don’t use the internet or watch television, or talk to many teensters. Still, does it deserve all the hype?
Well, the simplest answer is that I enjoyed the film but not necessarily the marketing tactic. Very rarely do we view a film without preconceived notions or a certain amount of spoiler tidbits. While I had heard of “Paranormal Activity” back in 2007 when it was initially released, I had no way of actually seeing it. So, when 2009 hit, I was excited to see the film, especially given my enjoyment of The Blair Witch Project, Cloverfield, Quarantine and the general handy-cam style.
If you’ve seen the trailer, you’ve seen a several high points of the film as well. Hollywood has the tendency to reveal the endings of horror films in their trailers, so you’ve been warned. I remember watching the trailer for Quarantine and thinking, the film is going to end when the lady gets dragged into the darkness. Bingo. My point is, the less you know about the film, the better.
The movie revolves around a couple who sets up a camera inside their house after some minor and possibly paranormal disturbances. The film shows 21 days of their recorded footage, with every day grows progressively worse in terms of the paranormal. Believe it or not, the story is actually quite smart. It answers the majority of the “why the hell don’t they…” questions casually and sets up an appropriate amount of boundaries story-wise so viewers don’t laugh at the characters the entire time over their stupidity. So, for those who watch horror movies because they find them funny, my personal opinion is that this one deals with the expected reaction better than most.
The style of the film also helps matters by being incredibly mundane and organic. The first half of the film has very little action and is in fact quite boring. I’ve seen a few films employ this tactic (Audition, The Descent), and usually they’re incredibly effective. It’s a combination of the utter slowness of the film and the suspense that make the second half a success.
By suspense, I mean a lot of it. There’s a lot of waiting and anticipation, and when the scares actually comes, they’re creepy enough to make the story grow. With a shoestring budget like this, usually the cheapness leaks through. Fortunately, director Oren Peli avoids most of the pitfalls and even has a few pretty nifty special effects.
In the end, I’d say Paranormal Activity is a success, but it depends on what you like more, the jumps or the suspense. This film is very good at setting up suspense, but there are only about two or three truly jarring moments. If you’re tired of the conventions Hollywood horror films have unanimously sunk into, Paranormal Activity is a unique and refreshing take on the genre. Plus, if you like success stories and film that are NOT remakes, this one is that and then some for Oren Peli and his well-spent ten grand.